In October, while City Council worked to finalize rideshare regulations that would ultimately lower the safety procedures for Uber and Lyft drivers (by removing a previously mandatory fingerprint background check), an Uber driver allegedly raped a passenger. The man had never been fingerprinted.
Officials say Gabriel Vasquez, who opted out of the city's free fingerprint check when he became an Uber driver, had a clean criminal history when he allegedly raped a 22-year-old drunk woman who requested a ride home in October.
It seems that rideshare, marketed as a solution to drunk driving, could still put drunk passengers in risky situations — with or without extensive background checks. Which begs a tricky question: What, if anything, could have been done differently?
In her affidavit, the 22-year-old victim said she was intoxicated when she requested an Uber ride home from a local bar in October. When Vazquez reached her house, he escorted the woman to the front door, since she had trouble walking. Vazquez, who told officers that he knew she was extremely drunk, preceded to follow the woman inside and rape her in her bedroom, according to the victim.
"The victim said she told the defendant 'no,' on multiple occasions but he still continued to make her have sex with him," the affidavit reads.
For Mayor Ivy Taylor, this is more an issue of passenger awareness than driver screening.
"In no way do I want to blame the victim," Taylor told the Current.
"But we need to encourage people to protect their personal safety when they go out drinking." She said the city will continue to run social media campaigns reminding people to use the 'buddy system' when they drink in public.
The point of these "10 print" background checks is to weed out drivers with a serious criminal background before they got behind the wheel. But even though driver Gabriel Vasquez opted-out of the free fingerprint check, police say he has a clean criminal history.
Vasquez, 40, was officially charged with sexual assault on January 14 — three months after the alleged rape (and a month after the council passed their rideshare rules
). Which is way too much time, according to City Council member Rebecca Viagran.
"My main concern is how long it took for the council to get this information," Viagran said.
During the city's negotiations with rideshare companies, Viagran didn't believe there were any reported cases of assault linked to rideshare in San Antonio. Now, she said, she'll work to make sure rideshare companies work closer with the San Antonio Police Department to expedite these cases.
"We need to be doing our part to help victims. Our work is not done."