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LAPD Arrests Man Who Posed As Uber Driver And Sexually Assaulted A Woman

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The LAPD says they have arrested a man who pretended to be an Uber driver, attacked a female passenger, and left her on a street in Westlake.

The L.A. Times reports that detectives were led to their suspect, Dartanyum Smith, 39, after collecting DNA evidence, some of which was found under the woman's fingernails.

At around 3:30 a.m. on April 3rd, the woman was standing near 8th Street and Vermont waiting for her Uber when an SUV pulled up. According to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, the driver asked if she was waiting for an Uber, and she got into the car "with some trepidation." After driving the SUV about 2 blocks, he began assaulting the woman.

According to KTLA, the LAPD received a call saying they could hear a woman's screams coming from inside an SUV on the1300 block of Ingraham Street. She was brutally sexually assaulted, and had been choked into unconsciousness three times before police arrived. Beck said she "fought valiantly."

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As officers responded, they began searching parked cars, and according to Beck, saw the assault taking place in the backseat of the SUV. They smashed the windows, and the driver sped off, shoving the woman back out on the street a few blocks away. While the driver fled, the door of his SUV nearly hit an officer, which prompted him to open fire, though the suspect was not hit.

Beck emphasized that the man was not an Uber driver.

"We believe that he guessed based on her actions, standing at a street corner in the early-morning hours, that she was waiting for a ride, and he guessed Uber," Beck said. "This was a young woman who through absolutely no fault of her own was targeted and selected right off the street by a predator."

According to KTLA, the woman's friend had called the Uber for her, which makes it far more difficult to determine if the car arriving is in fact the one that has been ordered. While Beck emphasized that Smith was not employed by Uber, and that Uber has in fact been helpful in the investigation, this incident is yet another that puts passenger safety into question.

Last month, an intoxicated woman was raped by her Uber driver in San Diego. In June, another local woman said she was assaulted by her driver in Gardena. And earlier this year, another Uber driver was charged with extorting and assaulting a passenger in West Hollywood. An internal leak at Uber found thousands of reported instances of sexual assault had been found in the company's customer service database (though Uber claimed those numbers were misleading). Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for fingerprint background checks to be implemented with Uber and Lyft drivers.