Woman says driver raped her at unknown Capitol Hill park — UPDATE

UPDATE 7/15: A woman who said she was raped by an Uber driver on Capitol Hill early Sunday morning had in fact taken a ride from a stranger who offered her a lift while she was “highly intoxicated,” a Seattle police spokesperson told CHS. The suspect was not posing as an Uber driver, police said.

According to SPD, the woman, who was visiting from Texas, had taken a Uber ride earlier in the day and mistakenly reported to police that it was an Uber driver that had raped her in an unknown Capitol Hill park. The app-based rideshare service has been cleared of any connection to the incident and police say they are still searching for the suspect, described as a Middle Eastern or Black male driving a red SUV.

Original Report: A woman visiting Seattle from Texas said she was raped by an Uber driver early Sunday morning at an unknown park on Capitol Hill, according to Seattle Police. UPDATE: A Seattle police spokesperson told CHS that investigators determined Monday afternoon that the suspect was not an Uber driver, despite the initial report, and the company has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident. The investigation into the alleged sexual assault is still open.

Police reports said the woman used the Uber app to call for a driver at around 2 AM to take her from downtown to her fiancé’s house on Capitol Hill. A man driving a red SUV responded to the call.

The woman told police she was unfamiliar with the area, but said she knew the driver was not taking her in the right direction. She said the suspect then turned off to an unknown park on Capitol Hill, pulled her out of the car, and raped her.

The woman told police she was afraid the man would kill her if she didn’t do what he said. After pleading with the driver to drop her off anywhere, he left her at 15th and Thomas. The victim knocked on a door of a nearby house and told a resident she had been raped. The resident did not let her in and called police.

When police arrived they noted the victim’s knees were cut and it appeared that her blouse had been ripped. The victim was taken to Harborview Medical Center. Police were able to get the suspect’s name from the victim’s Uber receipt.

Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend sent the following statement to CHS in response to the report:

Rider safety is Uber’s #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation, but have not yet been contacted directly with regard to an incident in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the City Council passed a new set of regulations for car hire services on Monday that removed caps on the number of drivers that could operate in the city and solidified stricter insurance requirements. The council also voted to issue 200 more traditional taxi licenses over four years.

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43 thoughts on “Woman says driver raped her at unknown Capitol Hill park — UPDATE

    • Exactly. How did she get an Uber receipt from a fake Uber driver? It must be fake as well so they don’t have the suspect’s name I’m guessing. My heart goes out to this woman.

      • Uber gives you a receipt for $5 if you are not there when they arrive to pick you up. If she had gotten into a car claiming to be an Uber, she would still have been e-mailed a receipt. That’s probably how the police determined that the attacker was not actually working for Uber.

  1. This is aweful and I hope they figure out who did this. I would like to get on my soapbox and mention that Uber the company screws over their customers all the time with this 2.5 times peak time rate bullshit. They pulled this on me yesterday. When I logged on to my wife’s phone they were only going to charge 2.0 times. I waited a minute and checked again on her phone and they now dropped it to 1.5 times the normal rate. They are playing a psychological game with you to squeeze the maximum about of $$$ out of you. Don’t fall for the peak prices game they are playing.

    • I’m no fan of Uber, but Manny, what you are seeing is their surge pricing actually working. When they put a surge pricing into affect, more drivers come on to the system or the area where you are and the surge pricing responds and prices drop. This happened to me last night at King Street Station, surge was 2.5 x, less than a minute later, surge was 2x. Chances are than anytime you see a surge, a few minutes later, the surge will be lower, not higher, unless requests for fares keeps on increasing (IE a game or show is letting out).

      Regarding the Rape allegation, while it seems Uber was cleared in this case, the problem is that when passengers are unfamiliar with the type of car, or cars lack any official markings, a passenger might get into the wrong car, and predators may know this and look for people that appear to be waiting for a car (theoretically a predator could be working in concert with an uber of lyft driver who tips them off — not saying that this has happened — but it could.) Always check the uber, lyft or sidecar app for the make and model of the car that has accepted your request, and the drivers are supposed to confirm your name (to ensure that someone doesnt’ snipe your care from you, and you get charged for the ride).

      • There is no “surge”. It’s a hoax/scam/charade. Uber doesn’t care. They are in business to take advantage of you…nothing more, nothing less.

      • I’d rather deal with occasionally inflated prices during peak times than get ripped off over and over and over by traditional cab companies (which absolutely happens and prior to uber I dealt with frequently).

      • I agree. If you don’t like a service, don’t use it. Pretty simple. Thankfully we now have options that didn’t exist before.

        Its a good practice to match the license plate number to that given when the ride is confirmed to the vehicle you get into.

        So sad to hear about this, I hope she is doing ok given the circumstances and makes as full a recovery as possible. Please keep us updated, CHS.

      • Actually it happened to me down in the International district on the return trip as well after the game but this time in reverse. This time it went from 2.0 to 2.5 time when I cancelled because the initial driver I chose looked lost after I waited and waited. I am awaiting word from them on a refund on this since I sent an email complaining. Same price gouging tactic at work. They are trying to see how desperate the user is for their service, this works great for them but no so much for the consumer. Again just warning others to cancel and go for a lower price when they attempt to charge you an inflated fare initially.

      • It is a human tragedy that this woman was raped. There is no doubt about that. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their life, which is a terribly disturbing fact. There are no comments anyone can post on this thread that will change what happened to this woman. We all need to be vigilant for our safety and the safety of others.

        One could say that if uber was not allowed to operate in this city, this woman would not have suffered this assault.

        What exactly would an on-topic comment to this thread look like? I would guess that it would either be an expression of sympathy (that she will likely never read), or something that would venture into victim-blaming. Any tips about a red SUV should be directed to the police, not posted in a comment thread on a neighborhood blog.

      • What else needs to be said about the rape incident outside it’s a horrible incident and be careful who’s car you get into? It happened already and nothing said here will change this. It’s a horrible news story like we see all day every day in mainstream media.

    • No, it only means that an Uber driver wasn’t involved. Nothing more and nothing less.

      By the way, it would be VERY hard to impersonate an Uber driver. When you request a ride, you are sent the name, license plate #, make, and model for the driver/car assigned to you.

      • Yes, all that information gets sent to the customer requesting a ride. However, how many times do people actually check the license plate number against the Uber app info? Probably almost never. I would guess that less than half of users even pay attention to the car make and model, especially if the customer is going out drinking and possibly intoxicated. Although it’s impossible to know what actually happened in this case without additional information, I think it’s perfectly plausible that some predator saw a woman standing on the street waiting for a ride, and impersonated her ride.

        In any case, I hope the woman is getting whatever help and counseling she needs, and I hope the police find the rapist and are able to bring him in.

      • “However, how many times do people actually check the license plate number against the Uber app info? Probably almost never. I would guess that less than half of users even pay attention to the car make and model,”

        I ride Uber all the time, in Seattle and in other cities. I check the make/model/plate, every single time. One has to. When the app says the car is near, I start scanning the traffic looking for the make and model, and then looking for the plate, so I can wave at the driver. And even places where the traffic is not crowded, I still check, every single time.

        It would be kinda embarrassing to open the passenger door and sit down in some random stranger who happens to be driving a new Prius and stops the the traffic light where I am standing.

        Bluntly and with no apologies at all, if one doesn’t take advantage such an easy to use safety mechanism, I have very very little sympathy. And “I was drunk” is not an extenuating excuse. When you start drinking, you implicitly agree right then to be responsible for all of failures of judgement and perception that you will commit during that bout of intoxication. Not willing to be responsible for that? Then don’t drink.

      • I hope you are not insinuating that a stranger kidnapping her and raping her is her fault, because it is not.

      • He didn’t say that at all. He said that if she was too drunk to be aware of what she was doing, she had only herself to blame. That’s not the same as saying getting kidnapped and raped is her fault.

      • Nope. If you rape someone, you’re a scumbag rapist, no matter how drunk that person is.

        But it doesn’t sound like someone is trying to pose as an Uber driver I guess, so that’s good? I guess.

    • “Police were able to get the suspect’s name from the victim’s Uber receipt.”

      So if it wasn’t Uber, how could the suspect’s name been pulled from the receipt? Is this guy still on the loose? What am I missing here? It seems that the police should issue an updated statement. Do we have a description of the suspect? Seems like more info is needed here to protect my sisters who use these services.

      • @Dod: Thank you for yr stellar comment. My thoughts exactly. If this wasn’t an Uber driver, how would they be able to find ANYthing in their system about this fake driver? This sounds like BS. And what did the guy look like? Where’s a composite sketch, suspect description and exact details about the car he was driving..? The victim is still being victimized & so will more if this isn’t resolved.

  2. I love how this thread has totally snowballed into a debate about the legitimatizes of Uber’s Surge Pricing. “Oh it’s totally sucks that person was raped, but hey doesn’t Uber totally screw you with Surge Pricing.” Get a bike, razor scooter, or some skate shoes if you don’t like using Uber.

  3. How horrific. I hope she is healing and being well taken care of. AND that she never reads these comments that would personally make me think people don’t care that a violent assault occurred – only that they want to save a couple bucks. Entitlement and selfishness.

  4. The business model for Uber is a formula for disaster, as far as the customer is concerned. You tell a stranger your whereabouts and lack of transportation, then wait for an unmarked car. It takes very little imagination for a criminal mind to see how to use this model for predation–whether they’re connected to the service or not.

    How about disallowing hired cars from having any kind of window tint? A prospective passenger can see in and identify the driver (is that part of the app at all?), and a victim of abduction can be seen if they need to signal for help.

    • Eh, I don’t agree that tint would work.

      Uber sends you a face picture, name, license plate, and a description of the car. This is to prevent you from approaching the wrong car. This could be difficult to remember at the end of a fun night though.

      Not sure what other measure’s Uber could take.

  5. @Kevin: “(is that part of the app at all?),”

    Kevin, you should try using the app once. It’s not difficult.

    And yes, it’s part of the app. When you summon a car, you are told the make and model of the car, it’s license plate number, and you are shown a photograph of the driver, and shown the driver’s first name. It also displays a map that shows where you are, where you “dropped the pin” where you want the car to go, where the car is right now. The map is then constantly updated, showing where the car is on it’s way to you.

    At the same time, the driver is given the address of where you dropped the pin, and is shown your first name.

    When the car picks you up, the driver will ask you for your first name. If she doesn’t, then there is a problem, and you shouldn’t get in. Also, if the car and driver doesn’t match the description, or it came from a different direction then the map would indicate, then there was a problem, and you shouldn’t get in.

    When the ride is over, and you get out of the car, the app switches over to a rating screen, where you can rate the experience. My own experience is that if you rate the driver or ride at 3 stars or less, a few minutes later a local CSR from Uber will call you, and ask you what the problem was. Apparently, if a driver’s average rating drops below a certain threshold, they stop assignments. Speaking as someone who has endured a LOT of really shitty cab drivers over the years, that is one of my favorite features: cab Uber drivers are significantly better and safer drivers than average cab drivers.

    Part of this is from the billing model. Cab drivers are paid either per distance or for flat rate, which means they are encouraged to get the trip over as quickly as possible, which means they drive aggressively and too fast. Uber drivers are paid for distance and time, and are penalized if the passenger feels unsafe, and so they are, in my personal experience, very careful and defensive drivers, and are religious about traffic signs and speed limits, and never do jackrabbit starts, hard braking, or aggressive lane changes.

    Interestingly, when the ride is over, the driver gets to rate you as a passenger. If your average rating drops below a certain threshold, they don’t have to come pick you up! I’ve heard enough horror stories from taxi drivers about bad taxi passengers they have endured (assaulting the driver, indecent exposure, “fouling” the seat, dealing or using drugs, etc), that that is one of the favorite features of former taxi drivers who now drive for Uber.

    I’ve also learned from a friend who is now an Uber driver that if a passenger fouls the seat (like vomiting up a night of drinking), the driver will immediately drive to an auto detail shop, get the mess cleaned up, and Uber will pay for it, and then will *bill the passenger*.

    I don’t work for Uber. I am just a very very VERY satisfied regular customer. Between Uber and Car2Go, when my own personal car wears out, I’m unlikely to replace it.

    • It sounds like Uber provides enough information to the customer that it is very safe, IF the customer is sober enough to check the various ways to confirm that the car picking them up is in fact from Uber. But if the customer is drunk, he/she is unlikely to take those precautions.

  6. Seriously, all you folks who are using this thread to talk about Uber pricing are being horrifically disrespectful. A woman got raped. She is someone’s daughter, someone’s friend. A horrible thing happened to her. How would you feel if your sister was raped and people’s reaction was, “anywaayyyy, uber sucks, whatever, no it doesn’t…” Uber pricing has literally nothing to do with this story – a story about a human being being assaulted in our neighborhood. Gross. SMH.

    • if my sister or daughter were raped i doubt that i’d be on a local news blog trolling for sympathy.

      what happened to this woman, and any woman, who gets raped is horrible and i hope the person who committed the crime is caught. however, it’s already happened and there’s nothing i can do about the situation at this point given the information i have. what would you like for us all to do? sit silently in a corner weeping for this woman and all rape victims past, present and future until all rapes stop?

      life has to go on.

      • It’s just disrespectful to talk about petty things in light of how serious it was that she was violently sexually assaulted. Being a good human 101.

  7. I’m sure there is a forum for all of you very special people to talk about uber pricing and how to take an uber correctly but this isn’t it.

    We should be talking about how no one in Seattle should be getting in a RED SUV with a potential kidnapper/rapist until this guy is caught. We should be creating a “I spotted a RED SUV, did anyone see this RED SUV on that night and get a license plate number?” because I for one would like to see a decrease in the current uptick of rapes and assaults in Seattle.

    Hey, travel in pairs and make sure your friends get in the right taxi service, and avoid Dudes Driving Red SUVs until this guy is caught.

    • also, avoid any middle eastern or black males while you are at it.

      you realize that your comment about avoiding red suvs isn’t helpful; right? just like avoiding an entire race of men is unhelpful in stopping or catching a rapist.

  8. I won’t use Uber because co-founder Travis Kalanick is a horrible business person who has a history of claiming incidents such as this one are not real:

    From page two of this article:

    “There was also a PR misfire in September when a political organizer claimed (via Twitter and a post on Uber’s website) that her Uber driver choked her. Police were at the scene, but no charges were filed. The story might have ended there, except that Kalanick’s callous directive about how to handle the fallout—he blamed the media for suggesting Uber was “somehow liable for these incidents that aren’t even real in the first place”—was accidentally made public. When asked about it now, he repeats flatly that the incident “just didn’t happen” and passes on the chance to walk back his remarks: “I don’t know if I would do anything differently. But man, I’m really not happy that an internal crisis-management e-mail got sent to the journalist.”

    I am also confused about how they were able to obtain information from the Uber receipt if this was not an Uber-related incident. Was the receipt from the ride the victim received earlier and the day?

  9. Uber doesn’t use red SUVs. They’re only black. And someone mentioned the pink mustache – that’s Lyft.
    As a woman who uses Uber…and usually alone, I’ve never felt unsafe. The app sends you a photo, license plate #, make, and model of the vehicle picking you up. And the driver always addresses you by name when they pull up, so you will never mistake who your driver is.

    I hope to the gods that the victim is ok and safe. And I hope whoever did this, Uber or not, is caught.
    Then strung up by his balls. For a long time.

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