Alleged Kalamazoo, Michigan, shooter Jason Brian Dalton reportedly transported passengers while working as an Uber driver during a shooting spree on Saturday.
For Uber, the incident raises questions about the brand’s ability to ensure passenger safety.
In response to Dalton’s ties to the brand, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan released a short statement on Sunday:
Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can.
Dalton—who had no prior criminal record—passed the organization’s background check. Although Uber has a policy that prohibits both passengers and drivers from possessing firearms, it’s clearly struggled to enforce this rule.
The issue with Dalton points to a larger problem for Uber users—a lack of emergency recourse.
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Quartz author Josh Horowitz made a case for the addition of an emergency button. This in-app function would immediately alert the organization and local authorities while an incident is in progress.
Uber user Matt Mellen said he tried to contact Uber and the police after a frightening ride with Dalton an hour before the first shooting. He told local news outlet WMMT that his attempts to get the driver off the road were unsuccessful.
Here’s what Mellen told reporters about his Uber ride:
We got about a mile from my house, and he got a telephone call. After that call, he started driving erratically, running stop signs. We were kind of driving through medians, driving through the lawn speeding along and then finally, once he came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away.
Uber executives now have an important decision to make. There’s no denying the ride-booking service has become invaluable for many people, but Uber’s image and its ability to protect passengers is jeopardized. It’s unknown how the brand will elect to move forward from the incident or increase safety measures.
As far as what the brand can do to regain public trust, Aaron Gordon, a partner at Florida’s Schwartz Media Strategies says it will be an uphill battle.
“When you hop in an Uber, you want to know that the driver behind the wheel isn’t a serial killer. So when it comes to corporate crises, this is about as damaging as it gets,” Gordon says. “Uber needs to activate a plan for communicating directly with its riders, drivers and local officials in communities across the country about the measures they already take to ensure rider safety.”
Currently, Uber is still operating in the city of Kalamazoo.