Houston police say a woman called early Sunday around 5 a.m. to report that a male Uber driver sexually assaulted her.
The woman told officers she was intoxicated and called family to tell them she needed a ride home from a Chevron gas station at 6121 Irvington Boulevard, Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva said. Family members arranged for the Uber to come pick her up, Silva said.
Silva said that the driver allowed the woman to sit in the passenger seat, and she immediately fell asleep. She told police she woke up to find the driver assaulting her with his fingers. The woman then got out of the car and ran back into the Chevron station to call 911, Silva said.
Paramedics took her to Memorial Hermann Northwest for a sexual assault kit, Silva said. Police also interviewed the Uber driver, who told them that when he arrived at the gas station, the woman appeared to be "hiding" and looked like she was in trouble, which is why he apparently let her sit up front, Silva said. He claims that, because the woman fell asleep, he reached over to adjust her seat and buckle her seat belt. When the woman woke up, the driver said, she was just "confused."
The Harris County District Attorney's Office declined to accept charges, pending the outcome of the rape kit and further investigation. The woman's case was assigned to the DA's Special Victims Unit, Silva said.
An Uber spokeswoman said that the driver was suspended pending the investigation. She said he had passed the city's fingerprint background check and had a valid Transportation Network Company License. She added in a statement, "We are deeply concerned by today's report."
The outcry comes after Uber left Austin — and threatened to leave more cities, like Houston — because of what it says are too-cumbersome background checks and fingerprinting regulations for prospective Uber drivers.
We tried to find out if the Houston regulations for new drivers really were hurting Uber, as the company claims — but that was tough, given that Uber sued to keep those records hidden.
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