NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Lyft driver was caught in the middle of gunfire while driving a passenger in Newport News back in May. Now, he's telling his stories to help others if they ever end up in the same terrifying situation.
The driver, who does not want his identity revealed due to security reasons, said his vehicle was hit by gunfire more than 20 times on May 5 near the intersection of Briarfield Road and Roanoke Avenue.
According to the driver, a passenger got into his vehicle at around 8 p.m. on West Weaver Road in Hampton. The drop-off location was supposed to be at 9th Street and Ivy Avenue in Newport News.
While at the traffic light near Briarfield Road and Roanoke Avenue, the driver told police he saw a black car abruptly stop behind him. Two men then got out of the car and opened fire on the Lyft driver's vehicle.
Court records say that the passenger told the Lyft driver to drive away because the shooters were there to kill him. A few blocks away, the driver jumped out of the car.
There were dozens of cartridge cases found at the scene where the shootout took place. A search warrant states that the cartridge cases matched several different types of guns.
The Newport News Police Department also said the Lyft driver did not appear to be the target of the attack.
A 20-year-old Hampton man, Dashawn Braxton, was arrested in connection with this incident on May 17. He was charged with one count each of malicious wounding, shooting in public, using a firearm in commission of a felony, intentional damage and possession of a firearm by a non-violent felon.
Police said they do not believe this was a random act of violence.
The Lyft driver said his car was destroyed, with about 20 bullets going through his entire car. He also said he suffered from injuries from one of the bullets hitting his seat and hurting his back.
He expressed frustration, saying he couldn't get anyone from Lyft on the phone to talk about what happened despite reaching out at least five times.
News 3 received a statement from Lyft regarding this incident:
"Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the incident described is terrifying. We've reached out to the driver to offer our support and stand ready to assist law enforcement with any investigation."
Lyft said when the incident was first reported to them, they responded to the driver via chat and claim to have reached out again via chat and email to offer support.
The driver said he repeatedly contacted the company, but only got an automatic response from the online app and did not get any answers or information until News 3 reached out to them on Tuesday. Since Tuesday, he said Lyft has called and emailed him about insurance information.
Lyft said its efforts to help keep its drivers safe include:
- Emergency Help (Supported by ADT): Without having to speak a word, drivers can immediately and discreetly trigger emergency assistance from ADT, who can quickly dispatch and pass along ride details and live location to authorities. We led development of this feature and technology with ADT and have had it available in the Lyft app for over a year.
- Smart Trip Check-in: If we notice certain irregularities with rides — if the ride has stopped for an abnormal amount of time, for example — we reach out to drivers directly to ask if they need help and connect them with emergency assistance.
- 24/7 Safety Support and Law Enforcement Response: Our Safety and Law Enforcement Response teams are available 24/7 so that drivers can always reach a live person and so we can take action — including working with law enforcement when appropriate — to help keep our community safe.
The following steps are common practice for responding to an incident:
- Take Immediate Action: As a first step, Specialists may freeze the account of the alleged offender while we investigate internally.
- Gather Information: Specialists reach out to the reporting party to gather information and provide support as needed. Specialists also contact those who might have relevant information, as identified by the reporting party.
- Evaluate: Lyft investigates safety reports through correspondence with drivers and riders, third-party statements, route data, timing details, and police reports. Based on this evaluation, Lyft determines how we can best support the reporting party and the appropriate course of action for handling the incident.
- Provide Resources: Where appropriate, Specialists also provide additional resources to those who report safety incidents to Lyft, including making those individuals aware of how to reach organizations that provide a variety of services. These services include counseling, emotional support and crisis intervention, as well as information on how to report incidents to law enforcement.