Over the past month at least eight rideshare drivers in Chicago have been targeted by armed robbers, and at least two of them have been killed on the city’s west side. The most recent incident took place on Wednesday night just after 10 p.m. when a 51-year-old driver was approached by three men as he was stopped after dropping off a passenger. The men demanded the driver’s wallet, and when he refused one of them opened fire at point-blank range, striking him in the chest.
Like every other driver behind the wheel for Uber and Lyft, the 51-year-old was required to be disarmed while on the clock, even if he was using his own personal vehicle. The two companies have long demanded that contractors turn their rides into mobile “gun-free zones”, and even as drivers appear to be a more frequent target of violent criminals there’s no sign that either company is set to rescind their policies.
At last report, the driver shot on Wednesday was in critical condition at Mt. Sinai hospital and will hopefully recover from his injuries, but armed robbers have already stolen the lives of at least two other people in the city since the first of December.
On December 3, Mohammed Al Hejojm, 39, was shot and killed as he brought his 2017 Cadillac Escalade ESV to a stop in the 1700 block of North Lotus. Witnesses told police they heard gunfire around 5:45 p.m. and saw four people get out of the Cadillac and run away.
On Tuesday, December 26, Adriana Arocha-Duque was fatally shot while working ride-share in the 4800 block of West Thomas. Police officers responding to calls of a traffic crash found her behind the wheel of her car with a gunshot wound to the head.
Witnesses told police they saw a man and woman get out of her car and run away after the crash, according to CPD. A source familiar with the case said investigators suspect Arocha-Duque was killed during a robbery.
Last week, CPD warned that a robbery crew has been targeting Uber and Lyft drivers on the West Side. Police issued a community alert about the crime pattern, but they did not include the two murders in the list of crimes.
After Arocha-Duque was killed on the job, Lyft issued a statement saying its corporate hearts were “with Ms. Arocha-Duque’s loved ones as they confront this unspeakable tragedy,” adding that it had reached out to her family to offer unnamed support as well as to the Chicago police to assist in their investigation. The company studiously avoided any mention, however, of a change in policy that would allow drivers like Arocha-Duque to possess their lawfully carried gun in their own car so they might possibly act in self-defense if and when they’re targeted by armed thieves with no regard for human life.
Uber, meanwhile, announced back in November that it’s introducing several new “safety features” it says will protect drivers from violence, including expanding verification of rider identities and a “Record My Ride” feature allowing drivers in about a dozen U.S. cities to record video of trips using their phone’s front-facing camera while still connected to the Uber app. That might help police identify a suspect in the case of an armed robbery or a homicide, but it’s not gonna be much help when someone has a gun or a knife shoved in their face by an assailant. It’s also completely worthless if the attacker isn’t a passenger, but instead spots a stopped driver and engages in a crime of opportunity.
Both Uber and Lyft have at least half-heartedly acknowledged there’s an issue with driver safety, so why won’t they do the logical thing and change their corporate policies to allow lawful gun owners who can legally carry a firearm to do so without fear of losing their gig? Fear of liability? Maybe, but that doesn’t seem to be a factor for other companies, including independent restaurants that don’t prohibit delivery drivers from carrying behind the wheel.
As far as I can tell, neither company has ever publicly weighed in on their demands that contractors be disarmed while driving, even when lawmakers have proposed bills that would bar them from acting on these policies. Unfortunately, those legislative efforts haven’t been successful. In 2019, a bill was introduced in Georgia to prohibit rideshare networks from “disallowing ride share drivers who are weapons carry license holders from carrying or possessing weapons in a vehicle that is used for purposes of the ride share network service,” but the legislation died without so much a committee hearing and doesn’t appear to have been re-introduced in the years since.
It’s not illegal for a concealed carry holder (or lawful gun owner in a permitless carry state) to have their firearm with them when they’re driving for Uber or Lyft, but if they’re caught with a gun, even if they were acting in self-defense, those drivers will quickly find themselves ousted from the rideshare network. There’ve been attempts to offer a rideshare service that does allow drivers to be armed, once again in Georgia, but the founder of Black Wolf App found himself in hot water with the state not long after he rolled out his plan.
In Georgia, a state licensing board regulates any company or individual who is paid to protect “persons from death or serious bodily harm.”
Not only must the company be licensed, but all employees as well. And they can only be licensed under that company.
[Kerry] KingBrown, 32, told the FOX 5 I-Team he didn’t believe the law applied to Black Wolf App.
“It’s a tech company,” he said. “Everybody thinks it’s a security company.”
If everyone thinks that, it could be because of what they’ve heard KingBrown say.
On NewsNation: “I don’t want people to focus on the world ‘armed.’ I want them to focus on the security this app will bring.”
On Newsmax: “All these services are provided by executive protection drivers.”
On FOX 5: “We’re getting robbed. We’re getting raped. We’re getting shot … the general public. So, that’s what it was created for.”
On every news story posted on his website, Kerry KingBrown’s marketing message never wavered: the world’s gone to hell, and for $60 plus $1.75 per mile, Black Wolf App can safely drive you to the other side.
I don’t think Uber or Lyft should be disarming passengers either, but it was probably a mistake for KingBrown to present his app as providing armed security for riders as opposed to allowing drivers to protect themselves. I don’t need an Uber driver to serve as my personal bodyguard, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to serve as their own security. Rider verification and recording rides are no substitute for being able to fight back against an armed assailant in the most effective way possible, and no one should lose their job because they saved their own life.