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Cops: Uber driver stabs passenger over knock on window

Holly Fournier
DetroitNews-Unknown

It began with a two knocks on a windshield.

According to authorities, a 23-year-old Uber driver who “felt his vehicle was disrespected” after one of his passengers knocked on his windshield shortly after unleashed a vicious attack, using a 2.5-inch pocket knife to stab a 49-year-old man from Beverly Hills who was traveling with his wife, four times in the chest, back and face.

Driver Jacob Matthew Allemon of Berkley was arrested after the 1:30 a.m. Saturday attack in the parking lot of a shopping center at Maple and Cranbrook. He was arraigned Sunday on assault with the intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and received a $250,000 bond. His next court date is undetermined.

Allemon told police he was acting in self-defense but police were skeptical about the claim, said Detective Sgt. John Weise.

“All the factors involved, the circumstances, make us believe the husband and wife,” said Weise, who declined to elaborate. The male and female passengers have not been charged.

Allemon told police the male passenger hit his car’s windshield twice before getting in, and dismissed his warning not to “disrespect his car like that,” according to a police report obtained by The Detroit News.

“(He) appeared very emotional, he was crying, breathing very fast, and was very anxious about what was going to happen with him,” Officer Andy Racine said in the report, detailing the ride from crime scene to police station.

After driving approximately one mile, Allemon decided to end the ride, he told police. The man and his wife allegedly refused to get out until Allemon summoned another Uber driver, according to the police report.

“The husband tells him, ‘(Expletive) you, you little (expletive). We are not getting out until another Uber driver arrives,’ ” Officer Todd Krum wrote in the report.

The male passenger allegedly attacked when Allemon again insisted the couple get out of his car, according to the driver’s statement.

“Allemon stated that the male subject started to choke him,” Racine said in the police report. “Allemon stated that he could not breathe, and he told the subject to stop. Allemon stated that the subject kept choking him.”

The suspect warned the passenger he was armed, according to the police report.

“Allemon stated that the subject would not stop choking him, so he stabbed him,” Racine said. “Allemon stated that he was in fear for his life.”

At least two officers noted in the report they did not see any injuries on Allemon’s body during and immediately after his arrest.

The male passenger and his wife first encountered Allemon when they requested an Uber ride home from a nearby holiday party, officials said. Their accounts, also detailed in the police report, agree they did not immediately exit the vehicle when requested, but they maintain that Allemon instigated the altercation.

“(The passenger) said he apologized and did not say another word” after smacking Allemon’s windshield, according to a summary written by Officer Nicholas Soley.

The male passenger and his wife asked Allemon to reconsider stopping the ride because they were only about a mile away from home, according to the male passenger’s statement.

“(The male passenger) stated that the driver wanted to ‘teach them a lesson’ and told them to walk,” Soley said. “When (the male passenger) did not get out of the car, the driver leaned into the back seat and got into his face. (The male passenger) said he never struck the driver.”

In another interview, the male passenger elaborated on his attempts to ward off the stabbing attack.

“(I) could not believe that (the driver) then lunged at me,” the victim is quoted as saying in the police report. “His hands went toward my neck, and I raised my arms to block him. I was just trying to subdue him. I never struck him. There was no punching, just arms.”

The male passenger admitted he put the driver in a head lock but only after seeing blood from his stab wounds.

“After (the victim) saw the blood, he grabbed (Allemon) around the neck and pinned him outside the car,” Officer Krum said in the report.

The victim’s wife called 911 during the struggle, according to the police report. She backed up her husband’s account that Allemon got into the victim’s face, but never saw a weapon in the darkened back seat.

First responders arrived to a bloody scene.

“As I approached Allemon, I could see steam coming off of his clothes and head...(he) was completely covered in blood from head to toe,” Racine said.

Another officer witnessed the victim sitting in a snow bank in the assault’s aftermath.

“I advised him to stay seated and calm,” Officer Michael Buczek said. “The vehicle’s rear doors were open and there was a large amount of blood visible in the back... Blood was also smeared on the rear of the driver’s seat.”

The male passenger was rushed to Royal Oak Beaumont for treatment and was discharged later Saturday, police said.

A spokeswoman for Uber declined to say how long Allemon was with the company or what his driver rating was. The spokeswoman, Kayla Whaling, said she wasn’t aware of any past problems with Allemon.

“What has been described is appalling,” she said.

Whaling said Allemon has reached out to police to offer assistance in the investigation. Allemon has since been banned from the company’s app.

Bloomfield Township police declined to comment Monday on whether Allemon had a criminal record before Saturday’s alleged incident. He became a registered chauffeur last month and has a clean driving record aside from a speeding ticket last year for driving five miles over the speed limit, according to Secretary of State records.

The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company courts millions of customers in more than 380 cities around the globe. The company says its drivers are independent contractors who use the app to help find customers and schedule trips.

Since its 2009 launch, Uber has faced criticism for side-stepping regulators and licensing requirements in some cities where it’s opened for business. And after several reported assaults by drivers, critics have also complained the company should do more to screen drivers and guard passengers’ safety.

Uber’s passengers are covered under the company’s $1 million liability policy but the coverage isn’t guaranteed, say legal experts. Uber has sometimes challenged claims on the basis that drivers are independent contractors and not direct employees of the company, said attorney Kevin Chapman.

“Uber has used this distinction to deny liability,” he said.

Meanwhile, a five-bill package on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk is designed to eliminate a patchwork of local rules for Uber and Lyft in favor of statewide regulations, including company-conducted background checks for drivers, no-fault insurance requirements and inspections on vehicles more than five years old.

The legislation also would require Uber and Lyft to conduct national criminal background checks on drivers, cross-check their names in the state’s sex offender registry, and obtain driving history reports.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs would oversee the new rules and could review company background check procedures at any time.

Officials with Uber and Lyft applauded the proposed legislation earlier this month when it passed the state Senate. The companies had urged the Legislature to adopt statewide regulations to help them avoid a local patchwork of rules.

The bills were proposed as Kalamazoo healed from a shooting spree in February allegedly committed by Uber driver Jason Dalton. Six people died and two were injured, including 14-year-old Abigail Kopf.

Dalton in April was found mentally fit to stand trial. He is due back in court for a hearing in February and no trial date has been set, according to the Kalamazoo Circuit Court.

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, represents Kalamazoo and wanted to take the background checks a step further by requiring Uber and Lyft to subject their drivers to fingerprint background checks.

Her proposed amendment was rejected, partially due to fears that Uber and Lyft could pull out of Michigan if the state required fingerprinting. Both companies ended service this year in Austin, Texas, because of fingerprinting requirements, arguing their own background checks were more effective.

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

Twitter: @HollyPFournier

Staff Writers Jonathan Oosting, Francis X. Donnelly and The Associated Press contributed.