Chicago, IL Illinois

Driver says he plans to quit Uber after firing shots at would-be robber in Merrillville

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MERRILLVILLE — The Uber driver who fired several shots at a passenger during a robbery attempt Saturday night said he no longer plans to work for the ridesharing company.

The 62-year-old Merrillville man said in an interview Sunday the passenger put a gun to his head and they tussled over his keys before he fired several shots and the passenger fled.

Merrillville police have not yet located a suspect, despite the use of a K-9 and a drone during a search of the area and canvassing of local hospitals, Cmdr. Jeff Rice said.

The driver said the incident began when he picked up the passenger in the area of West 59th Avenue and Tyler Street after accepting an alert on the ride-hailing app.

“Usually the addresses aren’t correct, and this time it wasn’t either,” the driver said. However, riders receive a picture of the driver’s car before the ride, and the driver noticed a young man waving him down, he said.

Merrillville police confirmed the driver’s identity, but The Times is not identifying him because he’s a victim of a violent crime.

The passenger got in and wanted to go to Chicago, but the driver refused because warning lights in the car had come on and he didn’t feel safe driving that far, he said.

The driver told The Times the passenger asked to be dropped off at West 68th Avenue and Van Buren Street. The passenger didn’t make small talk during the ride and sat in the back seat, the driver said.

“He stood up and put a gun in my face,” the driver said, before the two tussled and exited the vehicle.

“He looked at me. I looked at him. He had his gun in his hand. I shot at him three times,” the driver said.

The passenger ran, and the driver called police, he said.

Police conducted an extensive search, in part, because they weren’t sure if the passenger might have suffered a life-threatening wound, Rice said.

Detectives on Monday were continuing to work with the driver and Uber to gather additional information, he said. Police said they think the case is an isolated incident.

The driver said the entire incident, from when the driver picked up the passenger to when the passenger fled, lasted no more than three to four minutes.

“I saw a gun in my face. It is a feeling a lot of people don’t experience and live to talk about,” he said, adding he thought several times during the few minutes about firing his weapon.

The driver said he disregarded Uber policy by carrying a gun for protection while in Indiana. He doesn’t have a permit to carry a gun in Illinois.

The man said he won’t be driving for Uber anymore. He feels it is too unsafe.

“I had several episodes when I was driving in Chicago that I felt they was going to rob me,” he said.

He never expected it so close to home, he said.

“In today’s society, why would a young man risk his life to try to take something from somebody?” he asked.

The passenger was described as a black male in his late teens or early 20s with a thin build.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Nate Dillahaunty at 219-769-3531, ext. 364.

An Uber spokesman declined comment on the case. The company uses technology to track trips by GPS and share information between the driver and rider before the ride, the spokesman said. Uber’s community guidelines also prohibit riders and drivers from carrying firearms.

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