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Uber driver charged with battery on SF rider

A driver is cited after he allegedly pulled a passenger out of his car and then smashed her phone.

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Uber

In the latest incident involving Uber, police say a man later confirmed to be one of the ride-sharing service's drivers pulled a passenger out of his car and then smashed her phone when she tried to document the occurrence by taking a picture.

An UberX driver was cited Saturday night in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood, according to the police and Uber.

The alleged confrontation is the latest setback for ride-sharing services, which have come under scrutiny for the safety of their services. The most severe incident was the death of 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was struck and killed by an Uber driver on New Year's Eve in San Francisco. A dispute last month between a passenger and an UberX driver allegedly escalated to the driver attacking the passenger with a hammer. There have also been more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault and groping; kidnapping; and physical assault, according to several media stories.

San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza said that the driver, Martin Hynek, 39, of Berkeley, was cited that night on two misdemeanor counts of battery and mischief vandalism after the victim flagged down police. Hynek picked up the victim at her home and the two allegedly got into a disagreement over the address of her destination, Esparza said, and then Hynek pulled over and insisted that the passenger get out of the car.

Hynek got out of the driver seat, opened the rear passenger door, grabbed the victim's arm and pulled her out of the vehicle, Esparza said, at which point she tried taking a picture but he grabbed the phone and threw it on the street. There, Esparza said, she flagged down an officer.

Uber told CNET that Hynek had worked for the car service but that his account has been suspended pending police investigation.

"It's Uber's policy to immediately suspend a driver's account following any serious allegations, which we have done," Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend told CNET in a statement. "We have also been in contact with the rider and will assist authorities in any investigation."

Hynek couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but in an an interview with San Francisco CBS TV station KPIX, he denied grabbing the passenger's arm or throwing her phone to the ground.

"No. Absolutely not," Hynek told KPIX. "I did not touch that woman. I swear on my family; I did not touch her."

In a bizarre twist, the drama continued to play itself out in the comments section of a published news report of the incident, with the driver and passenger telling their side of the story and accusing the other of lying.

"I thought about saying nothing, but I am truly disgusted by his version of what happened and I think him lying about what happened is more telling than anything else," the passenger told KPIX. "He has zero remorse...that's scary."

Uber said it had reached out to the passenger about the incident and would refund the price of her ride and pay to replace her iPhone.

CNET's Steven Musil contributed to this report.