An Uber driver who police said threatened to kidnap several passengers after picking them up for rides in Santa Monica on Halloween night was arrested after a pursuit, authorities said.
Khaled Elasyedsa Ali, 35, of Anaheim is being held on suspicion of kidnapping and evading police after threatening to or attempting to kidnap at least six people Wednesday evening, Santa Monica police said.
Police began searching for Ali shortly before 7 p.m. after a woman called 911 and claimed an Uber driver was refusing to let her out of his vehicle in the area of 23rd Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, authorities said.
Three similar 911 calls came in a short time later, all from separate passengers who said that they had been in Ali’s vehicle and that he had refused to let them out, said Lt. Saul Rodriguez, a Santa Monica police spokesman. At least two of the passengers reported that Ali was carrying a firearm, Rodriguez said, but police have not recovered a weapon.
Though the first reported incident took place at 5:50 p.m., Rodriguez said police were not notified of the situation until the 911 call from the woman nearly an hour later.
Officers soon located Ali and ordered him to stop his vehicle, but he fled with two passengers inside the car, police said. The passengers were able to jump out of the vehicle while it was moving and suffered minor injuries, they said.
Ali surrendered in the area of Montana Avenue and Bundy Drive near Los Angeles, Rodriguez said, and he is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
A motive in the case was not immediately clear, Rodriguez said.
“What’s been described is deeply upsetting. As soon as we became aware of this report, we immediately removed this individual’s access to the platform,” Uber said in a statement. “We will provide any information to the investigating authorities for their ongoing investigation.”
A spokeswoman for Uber could not say how long Ali has been driving for the company.
The incident occurred on the heels of an announcement that Uber is rolling out a new safety feature in Los Angeles that gives 911 dispatchers key information about riders who call while on the road. The feature was tested this year in Denver and is available in 30 cities, including Phoenix, Nashville and Washington, according to Uber.
Los Angeles is the largest city in the U.S. to test the feature and the only city in Southern California that currently has access to it, the company said.