A Tennessee Uber driver who a passenger allegedly raped said at a preliminary hearing that technology meant to keep her safe failed, resulting in police taking 90 minutes to find her.
At the Feb. 22 hearing, the victim testified she had been driving for Uber for around four months to earn extra money so she could help raise her grandchildren when she picked up Zachery Richard Johnson of Ooltewah as a passenger.
On Jan. 15, Johnson was at a Chilis in Chattanooga around 9 p.m. when a restaurant employee arranged and paid for the Uber ride because the accused had too much to drink and couldn’t drive, WTVC reported.
After the Uber driver pulled away from the restaurant, Johnson allegedly tried to steal her vehicle and then later began assaulting her, a police report obtained by the station states.
The Uber driver’s boyfriend called 911 after he phoned her and “he could hear the sounds of a man assaulting her over the phone,” the report states.
“Hamilton County 911 also began pinging the Uber driver’s phone number which prompted a large-scale law enforcement response for an in-progress kidnapping but the cell phone location data was not exact and frustrated the efforts of law enforcement in locating the victim,” the document states.
An affidavit notes it took authorities around an hour and a half to locate the Uber driver’s vehicle.
At the hearing, the victim stated she believed the Uber app would track her location and would indicate she needed help when she failed to respond to a notification after stopping for too long.
“Surely God, they'll get somebody, right? No,” she told the court. “That app is no good on that part. Because if you cannot find me, they are the people who should be able to find me."
911 calls played during the hearing also show the lengths law enforcement went to in order to try to track down the woman, including by contacting Uber as well as Hyundai, the maker of her vehicle.
Johnson, who later claimed he couldn’t remember what happened between the restaurant and the alleged attack, faces charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated sexual battery. A carjacking charge was dropped at the hearing.
In a statement, an Uber spokesman told WTVC last month:“The driver’s report is gut wrenching. We’ve reached out to her to offer our support and stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”
According to the station, an Uber spokesperson said the company has since broadened when the ride check feature will trigger.