An Alabama man was arrested after pretending to be an Uber driver to pick up intoxicated women. 62-year-old Tommy Wayne Beard is facing charges of first-degree kidnapping, second-degree kidnapping, and impersonating a transportation network service driver. Beard was initially arrested after the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit found evidence of two additional victims on his cellphone and his home.
Beard was first arrested in March after a routine stop by police, where they found a 22-year-old college student unconscious in the back of his vehicle. The man was seven miles in the wrong direction from her home. According to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Officer, Beard said he was an Uber driver and was taking her home. But when police awaken the University of Alabama student stated she couldn’t remember getting in Beard’s vehicle.
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The 62-year-old was allowed to go home but authorities obtained a warrant a few days later, charging him with first-degree kidnapping on March 8. He was released from jail and was given a $45,000 bond. After his arrest, police seized a loaded firearm and his uber vehicle sign, as well as an artificial male genitalia device he was wearing.
New felony charges were quickly prompted after TVCU investigators found photos on his phone of more young women who appeared to be unconscious in the back of his vehicle. After questioning, Beard admitted he wasn’t an Uber driver, but had been posing as one to pick up people. Authorities had spoken to one of the other two victims a year ago after authorities found her walking out of the woods alone, but didn’t know what had happened to her. Beard was once again arrested and could face more charges as investigations continue.
In April, Uber updated their safety features following the killing of a South Carolina student, 21-year-old Samantha Josephson, who accidentally got into the wrong car she had mistaken for her Uber. Uber Chief Legal and Security Officer, Tony West, stated that the company app will now push out an alert for all riders to check the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the license plate. The app will also show the name and picture of the driver to confirm the correct person is picking them up and will also display new safety notifications.
Uber offers a safety tips list for any user using their service, including the following:
- Request your ride inside
- Check your ride matches the license plate, driver photo, and car make and model in your app
- Have the driver confirm your name
- Be a back-seat rider
- Always wear your seatbelt
- Share your trip details with your loved ones by tapping ‘Share trip status’
- Protect your personal information
- Call 911 if needed by using the emergency button located on your app
- Give feedback about your trip