A 34-year-old ride-share driver was charged Monday with rape in connection with the sexual assault of a woman in her hotel bathroom in SeaTac in March, two months after he allegedly handcuffed and groped another woman he had picked up in Bellevue, according to King County prosecutors.
Ghassan Shakir, of Tukwila, is suspected of committing at least five similar sexual assaults dating back to 2014 while driving for Lyft and Uber, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Charles Sergis wrote in charging papers. Court documents and a news release from the Bellevue Police Department say Shakir is also under investigation for rapes in Seattle and Kirkland.
Arrested last week in Bellevue, Shakir’s bail was increased from $750,000 to $2 million on Monday, when he was charged with indecent liberties and first-degree kidnapping with sexual motivation in connection with a Jan. 20 incident in Bellevue, and with second-degree rape for an alleged attack on March 31 in SeaTac, jail and court records show.
In an emailed statement, Lyft spokeswoman Lauren Alexander called Shakir’s alleged conduct “deeply disturbing” and said Lyft has permanently deactivated his account and is assisting police in the criminal investigation.
Shakir also previously worked for Uber for 1 1/2 years, but he hasn’t driven for the company for more than a year, said Andrew Hasbun, a safety communications manager for Uber. Last week, Uber launched a national campaign urging riders to verify driver and vehicle information and to require the driver say the rider’s name before getting into a car.
The safety initiative is in response to the fatal stabbing last month of a South Carolina college student who got into a car allegedly driven by a man who posed as her Uber driver.
According to the charges against Shakir:
In January, an Arizona woman visiting Seattle for the weekend went to a Bellevue bar where her friend was working as a bartender. Early on Jan. 20, she used the Lyft app on her cellphone to order a shared car, which picked her up then went to a Bellevue hotel to pick up another passenger.
For an unknown reason, the Arizona woman got out of the first ride-share car at the hotel and 10 minutes later, got into another ride-share car, a red Prius, that was to take her back to downtown Seattle, the charges say.
The woman fell asleep in the car but woke up when she felt the driver groping her breast. She tried to fight him off, but the driver insisted he wasn’t doing anything wrong and told her to stop being aggressive, charging papers say.
The woman, fearing she was going to be raped, told the driver he would have to kill her — and he responded that he was a nice guy, doing something nice. As she continued to fight, the driver handcuffed her and continued to grope her, the charges say. She screamed until he removed the handcuffs and she got out of the car, in what turned out to be Renton.
Bellevue police used video-surveillance footage and GPS data to track the woman’s movements and the location of the red Prius, the charges say.
On March 31, two women left a SeaTac casino and were walking back to their hotel when they were offered an “off-app” ride by a Lyft driver in a red Prius, charging papers say. Once at the hotel, the driver walked the women, who were both intoxicated, to their room and asked to use the restroom. One woman immediately passed out on her bed; the second woman was pinned to the bathroom floor and raped by the driver, the charges say. She underwent a sexual-assault exam the next day.
Last week, a King County deputy prosecutor told a Bellevue police detective investigating the January assault that a sheriff’s detective was working on a similar case. The two detectives went to Shakir’s workplace in Kirkland where they interviewed him and impounded his car, a red Prius, so it could be searched, the charging papers say.
In the glove compartment, the detectives found a pair of silver handcuffs, according to the charges. Shakiur was arrested last week when he went to retrieve the Prius.
In the SeaTac case, “he wasn’t using the app and he wasn’t on the clock — he just picked them up and offered them a ride,” sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said of Shakir.
He said detectives are urging riders to only use rides-share apps to order cars and warned that people are buying Lyft and Uber stickers and placards online in order to pose as drivers.
“The detectives feel that most likely, there’s more victims out there,” said Abbott.
Anyone who may have had contact with Shakir is asked to call the sheriff’s tip line, 206-296-3311.
Earlier this month, King County prosecutors charged Israel Ramos Islas, 34, of Tukwila, with first-degree rape after he allegedly posed as an Uber driver when he picked up an intoxicated woman outside a Ballard bar. Ramos Islas, who is being investigated in at least two other cases, is accused of raping the 27-year-old victim in the back seat of his car in December, court records show