Uber driver accused of punching passenger in San Francisco

Uber driver faces charges for alleged assault in San Francisco, authorities say

A driver with the popular ride-sharing company Uber was charged Tuesday with assaulting a passenger in San Francisco, according to prosecutors.

Uber driver Daveea Whitmire was charged after he allegedly kicked a passenger out of his car, then punched the passenger's hand and elbowed his chest when he tried to take a photograph of Whitmire's license plate during an argument in November.

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FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this post and an accompanying shareline reported that Daveea Whitmire had been arrested. He was charged but not arrested, according to the district attorney's office.

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The incident allegedly occurred after the passenger noticed that Whitmire's license plate didn't match the number the company sent him when he requested a ride, said Alex Bastian, spokesman for the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

Whitmire, 28, of San Francisco faces battery charges, including the assault of transit passenger, prosecutors said.

The charges follow the arrest of another Uber driver on suspicion of kidnapping a drunk woman outside a West Hollywood club and taking her to a motel room with the intent of sexually assaulting her, police said.

Frederick Dencer, 32, of Encino was taken into custody Tuesday after police said he “took advantage of the situation” when a valet at the club asked him to drive the 26-year-old woman home Sunday night.

Instead he took the woman to a motel room, police said. When she woke up she found Dencer lying next to her and didn’t remember how she got to the motel.

Uber representatives said they became aware of Dencer’s arrest Tuesday and suspended his account.

“The facts are unknown at this stage, and it's certainly unclear that this is an Uber-related incident as the driver in question was not logged in, connected to or operating on the platform at the time,” Uber officials said in the statement.

The officials said they had contacted authorities and planned to work with them.

While police said Dencer doesn’t have a criminal record, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Whitmire had been previously convicted of misdemeanor battery and drug charges.

Uber representatives said they had deactivated Whitmire's account last year, but noted that his background check came back clean.

"Uber maintains a zero-tolerance policy for any alcohol- and drug-related offenses on any background check with any partner nationwide, unlike, for example, the taxi industry in San Francisco, which permits drivers with DUIs and drug offenses," Uber said in a statement.

San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said he was working with the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees Uber's operations, to ensure the company's drivers were insured and underwent proper background checks.

Whitmore's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths argued prosecutors appeared to be using her client "as a pawn in their war against rideshare services."

"Police who investigated the incident found no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Whitmire's part and declined to cite him," Lutes-Koths said in a statement to The Times.

She pointed to a notation in a report police by the investigating officer: "Due to the conflicting statements, the fact that there was no visible injuries on Alva and Alva changing his account of the incident, I believe that there is insufficient collaborating evidence to cite Whitmire for battery."

 

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

1:24 p.m. PDT June 5: This version was updated to reflect comments made by Whitmore's public defender.

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