What is Uber? For the sake of those who are not plugged into “the Matrix,” Uber and other services like Lyft, are smart phone app-based freelance driver services, in a nutshell. Drivers drive their own vehicles, subscribe to the app and are notified via the app when someone in their vicinity needs a ride somewhere. It has become quite popular with the public, though not so popular with the regular organized taxi services.
Steven Rayow, 74, is one such Uber driver, earning extra income through the freelance driver service. On June 28, Mr. Rayow stopped his vehicle in the 400 block of Mandalay Avenue in Clearwater FL around 10 p.m. while working for the app-based driver service to pick up a passenger, according to a release from the Clearwater Police Department.
According to police reports, Rayow and his passenger Marc Gregory Mermel, 60, began arguing and it turned physical. Mermel choked Rayow, who pulled a gun from his waistband, police said. Rayow has a concealed weapons permit.
As the struggle continued, the gun went off and Mermel was hit in the foot, ending the assault. Mermel was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and treated for his wound and the police investigation of the incident is still ongoing.
While this case appears, at this point, to be a simple case of self-defense, there are a couple of other issues that come into play. Back in April, an Uber driver used his firearm to successfully stop an attempted mass shooting in Chicago. When Everardo Custodio, 22, began firing into the crowd, the as yet unidentified Uber driver, who has a concealed-carry permit, pulled out a handgun and fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times. Responding officers, who were nearby, found Custodio lying on the ground, bleeding. No other injuries were reported. No charges were filed against the driver who acted in the defense of himself and others, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn.
An Uber spokeswoman Jen Mullin had this to say about the Chicago incident:
The Uber driver had dropped off a passenger minutes before the shooting occurred. She had no comment on the driver’s actions other than to say the company requires all its drivers to abide by local, state and federal laws pertaining to transporting firearms in vehicles.
On June 19th, just 9 days before Mr. Rayow’s encounter, the company, Uber, made adjustments to their firearms policy instituting an outright ban.
UBER FIREARMS PROHIBITION POLICY
We seek to ensure that everyone using the Uber digital platform—both driver-partners and riders—feels safe and comfortable using the service. During a ride arranged through the Uber platform, Uber and its affiliates therefore prohibit possessing firearms of any kind in a vehicle. Any rider or driver found to have violated this prohibition may lose access to the Uber platform.
Since that policy change, there has been at least one report of a robbery of an Uber driver at gunpoint in NYC just 3 days before the attack on Mr. Rayow and less than a week after the firearm policy change to make both drivers and riders FEEL “safe and comfortable using the service.” Mr. Rayow’s failure to follow the new company policy likely saved his life, a fact that he is likely quite “comfortable” with, however his continued service as an Uber driver is still unclear. As of the writing of this article, Uber has not yet made any public statements regarding Mr. Rayow’s self-defense, in violation of the company’s new firearm policy, nor made any public changes to the policy itself.