At Least A Dozen Rideshare Drivers Murdered In Carjackings This Year

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Police in Plano, Texas shot a man who drove to the police department and opened fire on officers inside this past weekend, and authorities say the man is believed to be linked to the murder of a local Lyft driver just a few hours earlier in nearby Garland, Texas.

The death of 26-year old Isabella Lewis marks at least the 12th homicide of a rideshare driver this year, according to a recent report by the website The Markup, which recently reported on the staggering rise in carjackings and other violent crimes being committed against rideshare drivers, who are forced to disarm while on the job thanks to policies from companies like Uber and Lyft.

Through interviews with drivers and family members, police reports, and local news articles, The Markup found Uber and Lyft drivers from Boston to Nashville to Sioux Falls, S.D., who’ve been victims of carjackings or attempted carjackings. Their cars ended up crashed, in chop-shops, or used in other crimes. Police departments nationwide have reported an overall surge in carjackings during the pandemic, and these incidents appear to be happening to ride-hail drivers at an especially high rate.

Many of the drivers are elderly, immigrants, and women. Eleven have died as a result of the assaults, dozens more have been severely or permanently injured. Some of the carjackings are “wrong place at the wrong time” types of incidents, but 75 (more than 60 percent) of the attacks tracked by The Markup happened after drivers were paired with their would-be assailants by Uber’s or Lyft’s algorithm. The Markup spoke with three drivers who were victims of carjackings, and with friends and family members of two additional drivers. The apps matched all five of those drivers to pick up passengers who then went on to rob, beat, shoot, and in one case, kill them.

Since The Markup’s original report, there’s been at least one additional homicide; Isabelle Lewis’ death in Garland, Texas this past weekend. And The Markup’s report focuses exclusively on drivers for rideshare companies, but other drivers for outfits like GrubHub and DoorDash are also being targeted and killed by criminals looking for an easy and unarmed victim.

A man working as a delivery driver was shot and killed on the job in Mitchellville, Maryland, early Thursday, police said.

Noel Njoku, of Springdale, was the victim, Prince George’s County police said. He was 48 and is survived by his spouse and four children.

His wife and brother wept and pleaded for answers in the hours after his death.

“Please, anybody who has any information, please, please, please — anybody who has any information should come and help us out, please,” Chidi Njoku, the victim’s brother, said through tears.

Njoku was a happy, “peace-loving person” who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria decades ago, his brother said. He had only recently started working for DoorDash.

“I want to know who killed my husband,” the victim’s wife said.

Despite the fact that drivers are clearly seen by some criminals as an easy target, neither Uber or Lyft appear willing to ditch their driver disarmament policies. Even if you’re a legal gun owner lawfully carrying in your own vehicle, if you’re armed while on the clock for either company, you’ll be dismissed. It doesn’t even matter if the company only finds out that you were armed after you acted in self-defense, as was the case with Cynthia Norman, a Lyft driver in Cleveland who used her gun to fend off two would-be carjackers earlier this year. As Norman told me during an interview on Cam & Co, as soon as a Lyft representative found out that she had fired shots from her legally-carried gun to prevent her attackers from taking her own life, she was cut off from the ridesharing platform.

As the violence against drivers ramps up, some, like Norman, are choosing to defy the companies’ edicts.

“We’re not allowed to have any kind of weapon—knives, brass knuckles, pepper spray, guns, baseball bats. But that’s not what we’re seeing now,” said Lenny Sanchez, an Uber and Lyft driver in Chicago and co-founder of the Illinois chapter of driver advocacy group Independent Drivers Guild. “It’s like the Old West—it’s wild.”

It’s clear that neither Uber or Lyft can protect their drivers, so it makes sense that some individuals are choosing to protect themselves. I know I wouldn’t get behind the wheel to pick up fares unless I was armed for my own protection, and I don’t blame anyone else for doing the same. No, I blame these companies for their asinine policies putting drivers at risk. At least a dozen drivers have been murdered so far this year, and dozens more have been the victims of violent crime. It’s long past time for Uber and Lyft to do the right thing here and lift their ban on lawfully armed drivers before other innocent victims like Isabella Lewis lose their life to a psychotic passenger.