A 34-year-old Tukwila man has been arrested on suspicion of raping a Seattle woman who mistook him for an Uber driver, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
The arrest Wednesday came after the Sheriff’s Office used social media to share still pictures taken from a surveillance video of the suspect, just days after a University of South Carolina student was killed after getting into a car thinking it was her Uber ride. The 24-year-old man charged in that case allegedly used the childproof locks in his car to imprison her.
A King County judge on Thursday found probable cause to hold the Tukwila man on investigation of first-degree rape and ordered him held in lieu of $750,000 bail, according to prosecutors.
In the Seattle case, Sgt. Ryan Abbott, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the woman was raped early Dec. 16 after she left a Ballard bar to catch an Uber her friend had ordered.
“A man in a black vehicle, possibly a Dodge Charger, led her to believe he was her rideshare driver,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news statement.
The driver pulled the car over near the 11400 block of Fifth Avenue South in White Center and raped her, police said.
The surveillance footage of the suspect was captured near the woman’s home, Abbott said, who added that Uber confirmed the man was not one of the company’s drivers.
Abbott said a relative of the suspect saw him on television news and told him that he was being investigated for rape. The man reportedly said he was going to go down to the Sheriff’s Office to “clear his name, but obviously that didn’t go well for him,” Abbott said.
According to the statement of probable cause outlining the sheriff’s case against the man, he turned himself in at Precinct 4 in Burien. He provided his information, which was to be forwarded to detectives, and left. He and his wife then drove to the 26-year-old victim’s house and knocked on her door and her neighbors’ doors in an apparent attempt to confront her, the statement says. Someone called police and the man was arrested. Police say the man claimed he thought the woman consented to sex but admitted she was intoxicated, according to the statement.
“The victim also appeared intoxicated from the surveillance footage and likely would have been unable to effectively communicate that she was not consenting to sex,” says the probable-cause statement.
The King County case underscores some of the potential dangers of ride-sharing programs that are being addressed by lawmakers in some states.
Relatives of 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson have started a campaign urging would-be riders to ask every ride-share driver, “What’s my name?”
In a letter to students, the university President Harris Pastides said, “In Samantha’s memory, I ask you to embrace a new pledge … that you will NEVER use a ride share service without doing the following: Ensure the license plate, make, model and color of the vehicle match what’s in your app and the driver matches the photo and name in the app;
“AND Ask the driver ‘WHAT’S MY NAME?’ If s/he doesn’t say your name, DO NOT get into the vehicle.”
Correction: Due to inaccurate information provided to The Seattle Times, an earlier version of this story misstated the charge faced by the suspect. He faces the charge of first-degree rape.
Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this story.