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California

LAPD arrests man accused of attacking woman after posing as Uber driver

Mayor Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

Mayor Garcetti, right, listens as LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, announces the details of an arrest regarding a kidnap and sexual assault case, which took place on April 3, 2016.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police have arrested a man they say brutally sexually assaulted a woman after posing as an Uber driver, and then dumped her on a Westlake street after police tried to rescue her from the vehicle. 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said DNA evidence, including some collected from under the woman’s fingernails, led detectives to their suspect: Dartanyum Smith, a 39-year-old resident of South L.A.

Smith was arrested early Saturday at his home, LAPD records showed. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

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Beck and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti detailed the April 3 attack at a Monday news conference, describing a “horrific" chain of events that began as the victim waited for an Uber.

The victim, who was not publicly identified, was standing near 8th Street and Vermont Avenue when an SUV pulled up at about 3:30 a.m., Beck said. The male driver asked the victim if she was waiting for an Uber, the chief said, and “with some trepidation” she got into the car.

Beck emphasized that the man was not an Uber driver, and said investigators believe he was able to guess the woman was waiting for a ride.

The man drove the SUV about two blocks away, then began assaulting the woman, Beck said. She was choked unconscious several times but fought “valiantly,” Beck said, screaming loudly enough to draw the attention of nearby residents who called 911. 

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Officers drove through the neighborhood, scanning parked cars for the attacker, Beck said. At one point, he said, they heard the woman’s screams, looked to their left and saw the man attacking her in the backseat of an SUV. 

The officers got out of their patrol car and tried to get into the SUV, Beck said, but the door was locked. They began smashing the vehicle’s windows, he said, causing the man to jump in the driver’s seat.

As the man sped away, Beck said, he drove toward one of the officers, who fired a shot at the driver but didn’t hit him.

The officers jumped back in their car, Beck said, and requested back-up as they looked for the SUV. They soon found the woman standing in the middle of the street, Beck said, “where she had been tossed out by the suspect.”

Police didn’t find the SUV that night. The LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division — which typically handles more complex or high-profile cases — took over the investigation with help from the FBI, Beck said. 

“We believed that we had a predator loose on the streets of Los Angeles,” Beck said. “We didn’t want the second crime in a series to occur.”

Officials said Smith had an extensive criminal record, including a robbery conviction that resulted in prison time. But, they said, he had no prior history involving sex crimes.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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