Technology

Uber driver 'pulls gun' on passenger in Florida

Uber Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Uber said the driver was suspended, pending an investigation

An Uber driver drew a gun after a passenger said he thought he was going to be sick in the car, according to police.

Patrick McDonald told officers in Florida that he took out the weapon, despite the firm's firearms ban.

The two got into an altercation when the driver tried to forcibly remove Shane Fabry from the car.

Uber said Mr McDonald, 67, has been suspended and that it would co-operate with police.

Mr Fabry and his fellow passengers told police they were picked up by Mr McDonald on Friday last week as they made their way home.

During the journey, Mr Fabry said he felt ill and asked the driver to pull over in case he was sick but, when Mr McDonald did so, the passenger said he felt fine to continue after all.

Image copyright Manatee county sheriff's office
Image caption Patrick McDonald was bailed

Mr McDonald was accused of trying to drag Mr Fabry out of the car by his arm, telling him he must not be sick in a $75,000 (£52,600) vehicle. They said the driver took up an "aggressive fighting stance" and that, after a verbal altercation, he drew a black semi-automatic gun from the driver's side.

In sworn statements, the passengers said the Uber driver pointed the gun at Mr Fabry. While Mr McDonald admitted to police that he drew the weapon, he said he did not point it at his passenger.

According to the police report filed with the Manatee county sheriff's office, he said he had "grabbed it (the gun) because he was in fear for his life".

The report read, that when asked exactly how he was in fear, he said he had heard the passengers making threats.

The 67-year-old driver was released on bail by police in Florida, where the incident took place. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday morning on charges of aggravated assault, with a further appearance on a charge of battery scheduled for 19 February.

Image copyright Manatee county sheriff's office
Image caption Police said Mr McDonald admitted drawing the gun but denied pointing it at the passenger

Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons told the local paper, the Bradenton Herald, that Mr McDonald's account was deactivated while the firm investigated the incident.

"We stand ready to provide law enforcement with any information that would be helpful to their investigation into this matter," Mr Gibbons said, adding that Mr McDonald started working as an Uber driver in mid-January.

The background checks carried out by Uber, which does not employ its drivers directly, have been criticised in the past, including by a California district attorney and the UK's Licensed Taxi Drivers Association.

It was reported in June last year that Uber changed its firearms policy to ban weapons after one of its drivers shot someone soon after dropping off a passenger in his car. But, later that month, the Washington Times reported that another Uber driver was accused of shooting a passenger who was allegedly choking him, despite the policy.

Roger Chapin of the Florida Taxicab Association said that the latest incident came as the state's lawmakers were considering a bill to "strip away virtually all regulations for Uber".

They are due to vote on the draft law shortly.

"Uber can do their screening but it may not be enough," Mr Chapin said.

"If Uber is the only one with the names of their drivers, how can the public verify they are following the rules?"

More on this story