BERKELEY, CA (KPIX) – An Uber driver who was arrested last week in Berkeley is accused of trying to trap two female passengers in his car and demanding sex from them, according to authorities.
One of his victim had to get out of his moving vehicle in order to escape, police said.
Berkeley Police said the Uber driver, identified as 23-year-old Oakland resident Gebrele Abebe Amare, picked up a woman in her 20s at about 5:30 a.m. in the morning on May 2 in the area of Shattuck Avenue and Essex Street.
Amare was supposed to take the fare to her, but then told the victim he would take her to a room before he would take her to work.
Police said he then prevented her from using her phone and refused to let her get out of his car.
When the car got to the intersection of Ashby and Telegraph, police said the woman decided she had to act quickly.
She opened the door and threw herself out of the moving car. At that point, police say the suspect sped up in an effort to keep her inside.
She managed to escape and ran to a nearby Chevron gas station for help.
“She was really scared. All she wanted to do was hide,” said Chevron manager Jacobo Flores.
Flores told KPIX 5 by phone that he let the victim take shelter inside. He said her hands and knees were badly scraped up from escaping the car.
“She was like, ‘Oh, somebody’s chasing me, somebody’s chasing me!’ And I said, ‘Go ahead and sit down in the office,’” remembered Flores.
The Chevron manager said he called 9-1-1 and spoke with the victim. She said once Amare began speeding, driving erratically and trapping her inside his car, she decided she had to escape before something awful happened.
Later the same morning, police say Amare picked up another Uber customer, this time a teenage girl. According to court records, Amare touched the victim on her thigh, locked the doors, refused to let her out of the car.
He only ended up releasing the girl when she threatened to break the windows.
Amare was arrested on May 9 in the area of Ashby and Telegraph. The two women were able to identify Amare in a photo line-up. Both provided police with documentation from Uber that showed Amare’s first name and identified him and his vehicle.
He is currently in jail, facing two felony charges of kidnapping with intent to rape. Police said he confessed to kidnapping the first victim, saying he wanted to have sex with her and “pimp” her. But police say he is denying the second incident with the teenage girl.
A spokesman for Uber told KPIX 5, “What the riders reported is deeply troubling. Upon learning of this, we removed the driver’s access to the app and stand ready to assist police in their investigation.”
KTVU also reported:
Amare is being held without bail at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail. He’s set to appear for a plea hearing on May 23.
A Berkeley Police Department spokesperson told KTVU that it is unclear whether Amare has committed similar crimes in the past.
They say anyone with information should call the Berkeley Police Sex Crimes Unit at 510-981-5717.
*It should be noted that the only press coverage devoted to this story came from three local outlets, and none of them mentioned the fact that the accused recently came to this country from Ethiopia, and is facing possible deportation, if convicted.