UberEats driver suspected of fatally shooting customer in Atlanta

UberEats driver suspected of fatally shooting customer in Atlanta


Police say 30-year-old man was shot, and later died, following possible ‘exchange of words’ with delivery driver for on-demand app

An UberEats bicycle courier in London. The company has faced scrutiny in the past over its commitment to customer safety.

An UberEats bicycle courier in London. The company has faced scrutiny in the past over its commitment to customer safety.
Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Police say an Atlanta food delivery driver accused of fatally shooting a customer is now in custody.

Local media reported that 36-year-old Robert Bivines turned himself in on Monday. Atlanta police said in a statement they had a warrant charging Bivines with felony murder. The victim was identified as 30-year-old Ryan Thornton.

Police said Thornton ordered delivery from Uber Eats late Saturday and went outside his Buckhead apartment complex for his food. Investigators say witnesses told them Thornton and the driver exchanged words before the shooting.

Bivines’ attorney, Jackie Patterson, told WSB-TV his client “had no choice but to defend himself” when the man became irate and aggressive over his order.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution cited an Uber Eats statement as saying Thornton passed a background check and had worked only days with the company.

A spokesman for Uber, which prohibits drivers from carrying weapons, said it was “shocked and saddened by this news. We are working with Atlanta police, and our hearts go out to the families of those involved.”

UberEats is an offshoot of the Uber ride-hire service, and competes with other third-party delivery services, including Seamless, GrubHub, and Postmates.

While this is thought to be the first occasion an UberEats delivery driver has been implicated in a murder, the company’s hiring standards and commitment to the safety of passengers has been questioned in the past.

In 2015, a 45-year-old Uber driver named Jason Dalton killed six people in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan. He picked up at least one fare during his five-hour crime spree. One of his last passengers before Dalton was arrested even joked, “You’re not the shooter, are you?”

In November, Uber announced that it was taking new steps toward preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, including introducing an employee training program.

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Previously, it was alleged that senior Uber executives had obtained the medical records of a women in India who is suing the company after she was raped by an Uber driver. The suit claims company executives used information in the file to cast doubt on her account.

In October, a San Antonio Uber driver was charged with sexual assault after he allegedly raped an unconscious passenger in his car. A New York woman was allegedly assaulted by an Uber driver in August, after she’d passed out in the car.

The company is struggling is shake-off a reputation for unrestrained Silicon Valley sexism. A year ago, former employee Susan Fowler published an unflattering account of a year at the company; in June, the company’s founder and CEO Travis Kalanick resigned as part of a house-cleaning effort.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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