East Bay Uber driver arrested on felony kidnapping, sexual battery charges

Image 1 of 2

A 23-year-old man is custody, facing charges of kidnapping and sexual battery in two separate incidents while driving Uber passengers in the East Bay earlier this month.

Oakland resident Gebrele Abebe Amare was arrested last Thursday.

Investigators said at about 5:30 a.m. on May 2, a woman described to be in her 20's called an Uber in Berkeley to get to work.

"During the ride, the ride-share driver told the woman that he was not going to take the woman to work and refused to let her out of the car or use her phone," according to Berkeley police.

To escape, the woman jumped out of the moving vehicle and ran to a nearby gas station, where she managed to get help, investigators said.

She suffered minor injuries from jumping out of the car. Amare has been charged with kidnapping to commit a sex crime in that case. 

According to court documents, Amare is also accused of a felony count of sexual battery by restraint in a separate incident the same day involving another female passenger.

The driver is accused of inappropriately touching that passenger when she got into his car in Oakland. He reportedly kept locking the car's doors before he eventually let the passenger go when she threatened to shatter the vehicle's window. 

Berkeley police said an investigation led detectives to Amare last Thursday, when they located the suspect in the area of  Ashby and Telegraph Avenues. 

In a statement to KTVU, an Uber spokesman said, "What the riders reported is deeply troubling. Upon learning of this, we removed the driver's access to the app and stand ready to assist police in their investigation.”

The ride-sharing company also explained that every Uber driver is subject to and must pass a criminal background check in accordance with California law. Drivers are also re-screened annually, according to Uber, and the company said it uses technology that alerts of any new arrests.

Uber said the driver in this case was immediately removed from its app when the incident was reported to the company on May 2. 

Amare is being held without bail at Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail. He's set to appear for a plea hearing on May 23. 

A Berkeley Police Department spokesperson told KTVU that it is unclear whether Amare has committed similar crimes in the past.

They say anyone with information should call the Berkeley Police Sex Crimes Unit at 510-981-5717.