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Phoenix Uber driver says she used stun gun on male rider who groped her

(Getty Images Photo/Scott Olson)

PHOENIX — A Phoenix Uber driver who says she was groped by a passenger last week is sharing her experience to warn others, especially women.

Stephanie Johnson, who drives for the ride-hailing company part-time, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Tuesday she picked up a man Dec. 4 around 2 a.m. as the last ride of her night.

Johnson said she could tell the man was drunk and aggravated. He asked her to turn off her phone so he could give her directions instead.

“I let him know that no, Uber tracks me, and this is staying on. And I asked him to be please be quiet and I’ll get him to his destination, end of story. Or so I thought,” she said.

About a half-mile later, she said, he grabbed her breast. She pushed a 911 button on the app, pulled over and hit him in the face with her elbow and a flashlight.

After realizing the flashlight was also a stun gun, she went to the man’s door and shocked him a few times. He got out of the car and ran away, she said.

Johnson said it’s against the company’s policy to have a weapon like a stun gun in her car.

“We shouldn’t have to worry about this, not having some kind of a weapon to protect ourselves, because you can bet that (passengers are) probably packing and have something,” she said.

When asked whether the company allows stun guns, an Uber spokeswoman referred KTAR News to a policy that bans firearms but doesn’t mention nonlethal weapons such as stun guns or pepper spray.

Uber also disputed Johnson’s claim that an emergency dispatcher couldn’t help her when she called 911 because her location was unknown.

“To enhance the emergency button feature, we’ve partnered with RapidSOS in the U.S. to roll out 911 integration with the Uber app,” the spokeswoman said. “This means that if a rider or driver uses the button, key trip details will be digitally sent to 911 dispatchers.”

Those details include GPS location, the caller’s name and the car’s make, model and license plate number.

Johnson said she went home after the incident and filed reports with the Phoenix Police Department and Uber, but she hasn’t heard back from either organization.

Uber confirmed to KTAR News that Johnson filed a report and said the rider has been removed from the platform.

“What the driver reported is something no one should have to go through,” the spokeswoman said.

“The rider no longer has access, and Uber stands ready to work with law enforcement on their investigation.”

The Phoenix Police Department did not return a request for comment.

In a report released last week, Uber said there were 3,045 reports of sexual assaults during its 1.3 billion rides last year.

The company announced Tuesday that it was introducing a new safety feature — a PIN code given to drivers and passengers to make sure riders are getting in the correct car — but Johnson said that won’t help prevent what happened to her.

She said she wishes Uber would provide dash cameras as a default and offer self-defense classes for drivers instead.

Despite the scary incident, Johnson said she is still driving for Uber.

“I’m not going to let them scare me off, no way. I put it out there because I want other drivers to be aware, and that’s why I put it on my Facebook page,” she said.

“And I don’t want women to be afraid of driving.”

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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