Richard Lomotey, 36, was arrested on May 11 and had a preliminary arraignment the same day. Lomotey has been charged with two counts each of kidnapping, false imprisonment and harassment. A hearing is scheduled for May 23. Lomotey is a resident of Monaca, a borough of Beaver County, 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Here’s what you need to know about Richard Lomotey.
1. The Women Claimed Lomotey “Wanted to Get With Them”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Lomotey picked the women up around 1:30 a.m. and was driving them from Homewood to Penn Hills, both in the Metropolitan Pittsburgh area. During the drive, the women noticed that Lomotey ignored the GPS directions and then started to tell them that he was single, they were good looking, and he “wanted to get with them.”
When Lomotey reached the intersection of South Homewood and Penn Avenues, the women told authorities that he pulled over. He then locked the doors to his 2013 red Ford Fusion and told his passengers “you’re not going anywhere.” Somehow the women managed to open one of the car doors and escape. The first woman was discovered running down the road screaming for someone to call 911. Both of the women were uninjured from the incident.
2. Lomotey Was Identified From the Women’s Uber App
Both women identified Lomotey from a screenshot of his Uber photo and profile. Police were then able to match his Uber photo, identification and vehicle information with driving and registration records on file with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
According to Uber’s website, “all potential drivers in the US must complete a screening before becoming an Uber driver-partner, and current drivers continue to be vetted for criminal offenses.” Uber says that it is notified of any offense and can remove that driver’s access to the app, if necessary. Drivers are also asked to “periodically take a selfie” to ensure that the proper driver is behind the wheel.
“What’s been described is unacceptable,” an Uber representative said in a statement provided to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The driver’s access to the app has been removed and we stand ready to cooperate with law enforcement to support their investigation.”
3. Lomotey is a Highly Regarded Assistant Professor
Originally from Ghana, Lomotey’s LinkedIn profile shows that he has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cape Coast, as well as a Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Computer Sciences from the University of Saskatchewan. His areas of interest include mobile computing, databases and enterprise applications.
Lomotey has been an assistant professor at Penn State University Beaver since July 2015. The University of Pittsburgh has him listed as a part-time instructor but provides no other information. CNN reached out to Penn State University Beaver for comment “This is obviously a criminal matter and we cannot comment further,” Director of Campus Relationships Kristen Doerschner said.
Lomotey’s area of focus is on creating mobile medical self-assessment tools that can be used by laypeople with limited access to medical care. According to the Penn State’s website “(Lomotey) envisions putting mobile self-assessment tools into the hands of technologically savvy patients, halting unnecessary doctor visits, helping to reduce the burden on health care facilities, and bringing balance to the doctor-patient ratio.”
4. Over 100 Uber Drivers Have Been Accused of Sexual Assault or Abuse
Uber has had to deal with repeated accusations of drivers sexually assaulting passengers. In April 2013, CNN did an investigation that uncovered 103 accusations of sexual assault or abuse by drivers over a four-year span. No public data on the number of sexual assault claims against Uber and other rideshare companies has been released, however, CNN was able to determine the number of cases by reviewing police reports as well as federal and county court records for 20 major U.S. cities. At least 31 drivers have been prosecuted for sexual assault and false imprisonment. Uber stated that it will now be collecting reports of sexual assault and releasing those results in 2019.
According to The Verge, in April 2019, a Washington, D.C. Uber passenger referred to in court papers only as “Jane Doe,” was raped by driver Raul E. Rodriguez Vasquez. DNA evidence confirmed the woman’s story. Vasquez was subsequently arrested, pleaded guilty to the assault and was subsequently jailed.
“Jane Doe” has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the rideshare company and its driver, asserting that Uber has been negligent in ensuring the safety of its passengers. The suit alleges that Uber claims to promote a safe mode of transportation for women, especially if they’ve been drinking, but that women are actually at increased danger. The lawsuit is asking for damages to compensate for both mental and physical pain and injury suffered from the assault.
5. Uber Announced Increased Safety Measures for Passengers
In April 2019, Uber announced that it was taking additional steps to increase passenger safety. The company said it will be sending out notifications that will confirm a driver’s identity, vehicle description, and license plate number so that passengers can confirm that the driver and vehicle are actually affiliated with Uber. The new safety measures are in response to the murder of a Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina student who mistakenly got into the car of Nathaniel David Rowland, believing it was the Uber ride she’d summoned. Rowland, 24, was later arrested and charged with Josephson’s murder.
In 2018 the company ended its controversial forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment cases. Uber’s forced arbitration required plaintiffs to sign nondisclosure agreements. In 2018 CBS reported that Uber was adding a feature that would allow a passenger to share trip information with up to five contacts. Uber said they were also adding an emergency 911 button that would allow authorities to pinpoint a vehicle’s location.”It’s a journey. We’re in the middle of that journey. We’re seeing great results as we’re moving forward to actually make sure we’re doing the right thing. Putting transparency, integrity, and accountability at the core of everything we do. Today’s announcement is part of that,” Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West said.
In 2017, Uber announced its “Driving Change” campaign in which the company committed to making internal changes with the help of several organizations and donating $5 million to sexual assault and domestic violence programs. Uber’s partners included Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, NO MORE, Women of Color Network, Inc., Casa de Esperanza, A CALL TO MEN, and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.