Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Kirkland woman assaulted by man posing as rideshare driver

Other unrelated cases reported in county.

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend when Kirsten Page requested an Uber ride home from downtown Kirkland. A vehicle pulled up, Kirkland police said, and she got into the car without first verifying that it was her ride.

Unexpectedly, the driver did not take her to her planned destination but instead pulled into a dark parking lot. That’s when the driver began to assault her, she said.

Fortunately for Page, she was able to escape through the front seat door. She called the police and they responded just after 11:30 p.m. Kirkland detectives are investigating this case and reached out to Uber following the report. The driver Page requested had been cancelled and was not in the car she had entered, police discovered.

Page came forward to share her story with KOMO News on April 3, in the hopes that it would bring attention to the issue and warn others to take better safety precautions, she said.

But her story is just one of others coming to light as of late.

Rideshare imposters

An unrelated assault in December 2018 happened after a female was at a bar in the 5100 block of Ballard Avenue Northwest in Seattle. She went outside to catch a rideshare home, one that her friend had ordered for her.

A man in a dark-colored vehicle led her to believe he was her rideshare driver. While driving her home, the woman said the man pulled the car over and raped her near the 11400 block of 5th Avenue South in White Center, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO).

Surveillance footage, taken from an outside camera near the survivor’s home, caught the suspect on camera. This eventually led to him coming forward, in an effort to clear his name. He was later arrested after he visited the victim’s home.

The suspect in the White Center case — identified as Israel Ramos Islas — was charged April 8, with first-degree rape.

KCSO believes the suspect may have committed or attempted similar acts other times in the Seattle area. And they’re hoping any other survivors who believe they may have been in contact with the suspect will come forward.

Two other women have cases that may be linked to Ramos Islas, said KCSO spokesperson Ryan Abbott. One Seattle woman reported to police that a man she believed to be Ramos Islas picked her up outside another Ballard bar. After dropping the woman off, he appeared at her door and told her she had forgotten her phone. The suspect attempted to force the door open, but the woman was able to close and lock the door.

And a third woman posted a video on Reddit of a man who said he was her driver. However, she refused to get into the car and instead recorded the exchange.

Across the country, the recent murder of a New Jersey native has spurred moves toward requiring rideshare drivers have illuminated, identifiable signs for passengers in Jersey City.

Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old University of South Carolina senior, was found dead on March 29, after police believe she jumped into the back of a car she believed to be her Uber ride.

When using a service like Uber or Lyft, there are steps passengers can take to help ensure safety. Abbott said it’s best to verify the car’s license plate numbers and the driver’s name and appearance before getting into the vehicle. Often, the driver will also greet you by name, he added.

“If [something] doesn’t match, no matter what they say, don’t ever get in that car,” Abbott said.

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