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A Northern California Uber driver was arrested last week on kidnapping and sexual battery charges involving two separate passengers — and police said there may be more victims.
Berkeley police arrested Gebrele Amare, a 23-year-old Oakland man, around 3 p.m. on Thursday after the two female riders accused him of kidnapping them and trying to rape them during morning ride-sharing trips a week earlier, according to an arrest report.
Prosecutors have charged Amare with felony kidnapping with intent to commit a sex crime and felony sexual battery by restraint, according to court records filed in Alameda County on Monday. Berkeley investigators said there are believed to be more victims, and police encouraged anyone targeted to come forward, Berkeleyside reports.
“What the riders reported is deeply troubling,” said Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun, adding that the San Francisco-based ride-sharing platform removed Amare the day of the incident after the riders reported him, according to Berkeleyside.
Amare picked up the first rider in Berkeley around 5:30 a.m. on May 2, but instead of taking the 20-something woman to work as she requested, Amare “said he was going to take her to a room and after that he would take her to work,” the arrest report said.
He also told the woman she couldn’t use her phone or get out of the car, despite the woman’s repeated requests to leave, police said. That’s when the woman “opened the door of the car while it was still moving and threw herself from the vehicle,” the police report said, adding that “as she did this the vehicle sped up.”
Police said the woman’s ankle and elbow were injured.
She ran to a gas station nearby to get help, according to police.
“She was really scared. All she wanted to do was hide,” said Jacobo Flores, a manager at the Chevron gas station, according to KPIX. “She was like, ‘Oh, somebody’s chasing me, somebody’s chasing me!’ And I said, ‘Go ahead and sit down in the office.’”
The second victim was a teenager, whom Amare picked up around 7:40 a.m. in Oakland the same morning, the police report said. The teenager “demanded to be let out of the car” after Amare touched her on the thigh, but he refused and said he was going to drive her to work — then kept the car doors locked as the woman tried to open them, according to the report.
Amare let the woman go after she threatened to break the window on his car, police said.
The women picked Amare out of a lineup, and details from their Uber accounts — such as the driver’s name, license plate number and vehicle description — matched Amare, police said.
After his arrest, Amare admitted to the first incident in Berkeley, telling police he “kidnapped” the woman “because he wanted to have sex with her and he wanted to ‘pimp’ her,” police said. He also admitted to speeding up the car as the woman tried to escape in an effort to keep her in the vehicle, the report said.
Amare denied involvement in the incident involving the teenager in Oakland, police said
Court records said Amare is being held in jail without bail and is set to appear in court in Oakland on May 23, Berkeleyside reports.