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Police in St. Petersburg allege Uber driver’s involvement in sexual battery against passenger

According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, before reaching her destination, Jose Antonio Canales Sanchez, 51, pulled over in a parking lot, entered the backseat of the vehicle where the woman was sitting and began undressing her against her will and touching her inappropriately. 

Police said she was able to fight Canales Sanchez off and escape. Canales Sanchez was arrested later that afternoon. 

Ken Knight, a public information specialist for SPPD said Canales Sanchez was a legitimate driver for Uber and advised anyone using ride-shares like Uber to always be mindful.

“He was an Uber driver, and so, she had no reason to suspect anything would occur,” Knight said. “But we encourage anybody just to be really mindful on this kind of ride, share rides, or in a situation like this, to be mindful of the situation around you. Get as much information as you can before you get into the vehicle because you want to be well prepared. And we encourage anyone in any situation just to keep your head on a swivel.”

An Uber spokesperson sent the following statement:

“The reported details of this incident are disturbing, and this type of conduct is not tolerated on the Uber platform. Reports like this are taken seriously at Uber, and we removed the driver’s access to the app as soon as this was reported to us. We are in touch with law enforcement regarding their investigation.”

The spokesperson said Uber and Lyft share information about drivers who’ve been deactivated from each company’s app. 

Uber has a Live Help feature that lets riders or drivers call or text an ADT agent for situations that don’t require police, fire or medical. The agent can call 911 if needed.

Riders and drivers can also call 911 through the app. The app will send dispatchers the make and model of the Uber car, license plate and GPS.

Riders can also report an incident through the app. Uber has a team of former law enforcement professionals, including former FBI and Secret Service, who work with police 24/7 to respond to incidents. 

The Uber spokesperson recommends that riders share their trip with a loved one through the app.

Apps now are very, very common. They are part of our daily lives,” Knight said. “And so, we want to make sure that when people use them, that they use them appropriately and that they are mindful of the situations that are around them.”

All drivers have to go through background checks before they can drive with Uber, and Uber has a continuous background check process that monitors for new offenses.  

According to court records, though, Canales Sanchez has several traffic infractions, including running red lights and speeding. He also has a battery charge from 2007. 

We asked Uber about Canales Sanchez’s record and are waiting to hear back. He bonded out of jail early Thursday morning. 

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