Uber 'heartbroken' over Michigan shooting but defends its driver screening

Jason Dalton, who's charged with killing six people, had no criminal history and a good Uber driver rating, the ride-sharing service said. There were no "red flags."

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Uber said it was "devastated" by the mass shooting in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

CNET

Uber defended the process it uses to screen drivers saying Monday background checks couldn't have identified the risks posed by a Michigan man charged with murdering six people while reportedly picking up fares.

In a conference call, Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said Jason Dalton, who reportedly confessed to a Saturday shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan, had no criminal record. Dalton's background check prompted "no red flags," he said.

"No background check process would have flagged and anticipated this situation," Sullivan said.

The shooting spree raises new concerns about the safety of Uber and its drivers, who have been accused of attacking passengers in the past. An Uber driver in Houston allegedly took a drunk female passenger to his home and raped her last April. Meanwhile, California prosecutors filed charges that Uber's background checks failed to weed out 25 drivers with criminal records, including convictions for murder, assault, sex offenses and child abuse.

Uber runs the names of potential drivers through seven years of county and federal courthouse records, a multi-state criminal database, national sex offender registry, Social Security trace and motor vehicle records. Uber rejects anyone with a history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, gun-related violations or resisting arrest.

Sullivan suggested Uber was unlikely to introduce fingerprint identification as part of the process, something the company has been criticized for excluding.

"I disagree with the assertion that fingerprints are better than the process we have in place," said Sullivan.

Dalton, who had given more than 100 rides since starting with Uber at the end of January, had a rating of 4.73 and had received generally positive feedback from passengers. The highest rating a driver can earn is 5.

However, Uber received worrying feedback about Dalton on Saturday from several riders, including one passenger who complained of erratic driving.

Sullivan said Uber is cooperating with police and has GPS tools that might help the investigation. Uber has a dedicated law enforcement team in place that was able to respond immediately, he said.

Uber deferred to police on releasing details of the shooting.

Dalton allegedly started a shooting rampage just before 6 p.m. local time Saturday, according to CBS News. Michigan state police said he shot one woman multiple time in a townhouse parking lot, but she survived.

Several hours later, Dalton allegedly shot and killed a father and son at a car dealership. Less than 20 minutes later, he allegedly shot five people in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, killing four women and critically injuring a 14-year-old girl.

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