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4 months ago

Police now know Uber driver who may have witnessed rape

After five weeks, St. Louis police have now identified the Uber driver who may have witnessed a woman being raped in his back seat on July 3.

While St. Louis and Uber officials would only allude to possible progress in the case on Monday, the alleged victim said investigators told her Monday they now have the driver's identity and have been in contact with him.

In a Post-Dispatch story Friday, the alleged victim, 24, and her mother complained that after more than a month since the incident, police were telling them that Uber officials had yet to turn over any driver information to police.

Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, said Monday that she talked to Police Chief Sam Dotson over the weekend.

She said Dotson told her "all elements of the subpoena have been fulfilled," and that Uber has "complied completely" with the subpoena sent to the company July 12.

Dotson was unavailable for comment Monday; the department did not make anyone else available for interview.

The incident began in the early morning hours of July 3. The woman told investigators she had been drinking at the Wheelhouse, a popular nightclub in downtown St. Louis.

The woman said she recalled being in the back seat with two men who had approached her at the club. She told police she was assaulted during the ride, and that when she was dropped off at a friend's house, the suspects had left the vehicle.

The identity of the Uber driver may have become more obvious to officials after the Post-Dispatch story was published on stltoday.com on Friday afternoon.

As previously reported by the Post-Dispatch, the online article quickly sparked a discussion on a private Facebook page for Uber drivers, and one Uber driver said he had a strikingly similar experience, also on a call July 3 that originated at the Wheelhouse.

In the incident that took place in his vehicle, he told other drivers he believes he prevented a sexual assault from occurring. He also said he had sent an incident report to Uber officials on July 3 and had been dissatisfied with their response.

The Post-Dispatch has been unsuccessful in reaching that driver.

The issue of a possible delay on Uber's part came to a head July 30, when the alleged victim's mother and St. Louis sex-crimes Detective Karen Miles exchanged emails. In that conversation, the mother complained about delays in police checking security video from the Wheelhouse and in finding the identity of the driver as a potential witness.

Miles replied: "Uber is facing technical obstacles obtaining the information requested (...) they are not reluctant, the investigation will be lengthy due to the obstacles."

On Monday, when asked for a second time to be more specific about the nature of the "obstacles," an Uber spokeswoman said, "I'd like to point out it was the police who said 'technical obstacles.'"

The spokeswoman did confirm that Uber had complied with all requests contained in the police subpoena.

suit back to county

Uber has been a point of contention since September 2015 when it began to operate in violation of the Metropolitan Taxi Commission's rules requiring drivers to be fingerprinted for background checks. Uber and the commission both have filed lawsuits in the matter.

A federal judge on Monday ordered that the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission's lawsuit against Uber be returned to St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The two sides have been at odds on what court should hear their suits against each other.

The taxi commission filed a suit in St. Louis County on Oct. 5 seeking to have Uber barred from operating.

The case later was moved to federal court, where Uber wanted the case heard, but the taxi commission filed a motion seeking for it to be returned to St. Louis County.

The state court is the appropriate place for the matter to be heard, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey ruled Monday.

Lisa Brown of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Joe Holleman * 314-340-8254

jholleman@post-dispatch.com


Source: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/police-now-know-uber-driver-who-may-have-witnessed-rape/article_687e0f39-b0ae-57de-baaf-b67c97300ecc.html

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