For several terrifying minutes late Sept. 12 night, an Indian American Lyft driver kept picturing his family in his mind as a rider he picked up in Richmond, Calif., hijacked his car and held a gun to his temple as he drove towards Sausalito.
“I kept thinking about my wife and children and thought I am never going to see them again,” the driver — who wishes to remain anonymous as he fears for his safety — told India-West in a deeply emotional interview.
Richmond police arrested suspect Marcus Dean later that evening, based on footage from a surveillance camera at a gas station the driver stopped at en route, as directed by the rider.
Dean has been charged with attempted murder and kidnapping. He is being held at the Martinez, Calif. Detention Center on bail of $800,000. He will be arraigned Oct. 1.
Lt. Matt Stonebraker of the Richmond Police Department told India-West that no motive has yet been established in the ongoing investigation of the incident. No evidence of racial animus was evident, he said, based on the victim’s statement to police.
Dean was picked up in a high-crime area, according to Stonebraker. Both Lyft and Uber penalize drivers for rejecting rides, say many drivers to whom India-West has spoken.
“I cannot imagine what (the victim) went through. That’s some serious trauma there,” said Stonebraker, adding that similar incidents were infrequent.
Richmond was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. In recent years, however, homicide rates have plummeted.
According to the police report released by the Richmond Police Department, the victim picked up Dean at 10: 50 p.m. Sept. 12, in hopes of transporting him to his destination.
Things quickly turned when Marcus pulled out a gun, held it to the back of the driver’s head, and demanded the driver to follow his directions.
The Lyft driver followed Marcus’s driving instructions and eventually was asked to stop at a gas station for Marcus to get snacks, according to the police report.
While in the store, the Lyft driver began to flee as Marcus came running out of the store firing his weapon, and striking the Lyft driver's vehicle multiple times.
The victim told India-West he tried to flee when Dean went to the gas station store to pick up cigarettes. But he then spied the suspect’s backpack in the back of his car.
“I didn’t know what was in it, drugs or guns. He had all my information, my name, my license plate number. I thought he would come after me to get his backpack back,” he said.
So the victim returned to the gas station and tried to throw the backpack out near the store. Dean came running out. Then, according to the driver, Dean fired six bullets which hit the victim’s windshield and dashboard; the driver said he narrowly missed being shot.
The driver drove as fast as he could and pushed the emergency button on the Lyft app, which directed him to the Berkeley, Calif., Police Department. A police dispatcher told him to head to the station and that police would meet him out front.
Richmond police met the victim at the station and took his statement. Dean was arrested later that night.
The driver said he is furious with Lyft, which — he claims — has washed its hands of the incident. Lyft has refused to pay for damages to his car, nor will it provide a rental car, he alleged.
Lauren Alexander, a spokeswoman for Lyft, told India-West she was looking into the matter. Alexander had not answered India-West’s questions on driver and safety protocols, nor how the company intends to respond to the incident, by press time Sept. 18.
The driver told India-West he will never again drive for Lyft or Uber, saying both companies routinely ignore drivers’ safety. “This is a very dangerous job,” he said. “The companies have to verify their riders to protect us.”