Police say one woman jumped out of a moving car to escape him. Another threatened to break out his car window after he touched her and locked his doors repeatedly so she couldn’t flee.
According to court papers, 23-year-old Uber driver Gebrele Amare of Oakland picked up two separate fares on the morning of May 2 and tried to convince each of them to have sex with him. The Alameda County district attorney’s office was expected to charge Amare on Monday in connection with those allegations. Berkeley police investigators say they believe there are more victims and ask them to come forward.
“What the riders reported is deeply troubling,” Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun told Berkeleyside on Monday. He said Uber removed the driver’s access to the app May 2 after riders alerted the company about their experiences. Amare’s start date as a driver with Uber was not immediately available, Hasbun said.
Police say Amare picked up the first customer, a woman in her 20s, at 5:30 a.m. in Berkeley. She had ordered an Uber ride to get to work. According to Berkeley police, Amare then propositioned the woman and said they should get a room together.
She declined his offer and said she needed to get to work. Police wrote in court papers that Amare suddenly prevented the woman from using her phone or getting out of his car. When the woman got to Ashby and Telegraph avenues, however, she saw an opportunity and threw herself from the moving vehicle, police said. The woman managed to run to a nearby business and call for help.
As Berkeley police looked into that case, they learned that a woman in Oakland in her teens made similar allegations against Amare later that morning after he picked her up. In that incident, the Uber driver touched the young woman when she got in his car, according to authorities.
The woman demanded that Amare stop the car so she could get out, police said, but he kept locking the doors to keep her from fleeing. Amare finally let her go, police said, when she threatened to break out a car window to escape.
Police then sought a warrant for Amare’s arrest and picked him up Thursday just before 3 p.m., according to court records online.
Amare remains in custody, according to records online. His next court date was not listed as of publication time.
According to company material, every Uber driver must pass a criminal background check. The company screens drivers annually and also uses continuous checking technology that alerts Uber to new arrests.
In addition, Uber has an incident response team that monitors feedback around the clock and can take action, such as removing a driver’s access to the app, in real-time. The company has a phone line where riders can report urgent safety issues, too.
Berkeleyside has asked the Alameda County district attorney’s office for charging information and will update this story when it is available.
The Berkeley Police Department sex crimes office can be reached at 510-981-5735.
Update, 10 p.m. According to court papers, Amare was charged Monday with two felonies: kidnapping to commit a sex crime and sexual battery by restraint.
Court papers released by police Monday night include additional details about the incidents reported May 2. Police wrote that Amare picked up the first woman at 5:30 a.m. in Berkeley and told her “he was going to take her to a room” and would take her to work afterward. He told the woman she could not use her phone or get out of his car. The woman repeatedly told Amare to let her out, police wrote. When he didn’t, she opened the car door and threw herself out while it was moving: “As she did this the vehicle sped up,” police wrote. The woman sustained abrasions to her ankle and elbow due to her fall from the car. She was able to get help at a gas station nearby.
Less than two hours later, Amare picked up the next woman, in Oakland, and touched her on the thigh, according to police. She demanded to be let out, but Amare refused. She “tried to unlock the doors but Amare kept the doors locked,” police wrote. When the woman threatened to break out his window, he released her, according to police.
Both women identified Amare during separate photo line-ups and also provided documentation from Uber listing Amare as their driver, along with his vehicle description and license plate.
Police arrested Amare on May 9 at Telegraph and Ashby avenues, the same general location as where the woman in the Berkeley incident said she jumped out of Amare’s moving car.
According to police, Amare admitted during an interview that he “kidnapped” the woman in Berkeley “because he wanted to have sex with her and he wanted to ‘pimp’ her.” He also told police he accelerated when she opened his door “in an attempt at keeping her in the car.”
He denied the second incident, however, police wrote.
Amare is being held without bail and is set to enter a plea May 23 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online.