INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana State Police are urging people to keep their own safety in mind when using ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber.
The warning comes after two recent incidents that resulted in accusations against drivers for each company.
The first incident happened September 16 in Zionsville, when a woman told police she was sexually assaulted by a Lyft driver who was taking her home from the Broad Ripple area. Nour Albadri, 22, is charged in Boone County with rape, criminal confinement and two counts of sexual battery.
In court documents, a 23-year old woman says Albadri asked her to ride in the front seat of the silver 2010 Hyundai Sonata he was driving, so that his cigarette smoke wouldn’t blow into her face. She agreed to ride in the front seat. During the ride, the woman says Albadri began asking her for kisses and sex. The conversation made the woman so uncomfortable that she began recording audio on her cell phone. On the recording, Albadri can be heard asking the woman for sex as she continued to refuse, court documents said.
Later in the ride, court documents said Albadri began touching and groping the woman inappropriately. He eventually pulled the car over to the side of the road and assaulted her, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Although the woman was unable to get away from Albadri before being assaulted, Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine credits her with having the presence of mind to make an audio recording which would later become evidence in the case. He says personal safety should always be the top priority when using ride sharing services.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Perrine said. “Keep communication with your family and friends, whether that be through an open line on your phone through text message, through location sharing, no matter what.”
Lyft, based in San Francisco, issued a statement following the accusations:
“These allegations are horrific and very upsetting. There is no tolerance for behavior like this in the Lyft community, and we take these claims very seriously. As soon as we were made aware of his incident, we immediately deactivated the driver’s account. We have reached out to the passenger to offer our support and assistance, and have been in communication with authorities.”
“If you’re not comfortable sitting where they want you to sit, ask them if you can sit somewhere different,” Perrine said. “And if they insist, then obviously maybe it’s time to find someone else if you’re not comfortable.”
Albadri faces a possible maximum sentence of 27 years in prison if convicted. His trial is currently set for January 22.
Last Friday, a woman in downtown Indianapolis told Indianapolis Metropolitan Police that her Uber driver accidentally fired a gun he had been carrying. The bullet reportedly hit the ground and then ricocheted, striking the woman.
Uber’s firearm policy says the company “prohibits riders and drivers from carrying firearms of any kind in a vehicle while using our app.”
An IMPD incident report did not indicate any arrests made in the case.
On Monday, an Uber spokesperson said they were unable to confirm that the man who accidentally fired the gun was one of their drivers. The spokesperson said they could find no trip information that corresponds with the time and location of the incident. The spokesperson also said IMPD had not reached out to them in reference to the case.
Although the two cases are rare and appear isolated, Perrine says they are an urgent reminder to never take your personal safety for granted when getting in a car with somebody you don’t know.
“And most important, trust your gut,” he said. “If it tells you something’s not right, then something’s probably not right.”