Man Posed as Uber Driver to Lure Sex Assault Victim Into SUV: Police

The woman was waiting for a ride in LA's Westlake District when a man in an SUV approached and falsely identified himself as a driver for the ride service.

A man was arrested after allegedly posing as an Uber driver to lure a woman into his sport utility vehicle in a kidnapping and sexual assault earlier this month west of downtown Los Angeles.

The victim was waiting for an Uber pick-up early April 3 in the Westlake area when a man approached in a sport utility vehicle and asked whether she was waiting for a ride from the service. An investigation determined the man was not an Uber driver, police said.

"Today we know the city, and hopefully she, can rest easier knowing that assailant is now behind bars," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Garcetti and Police Department Chief Charlie Beck announced the arrest of a 39-year-old suspect Monday morning.

"I can't remember another one where someone pretended to be Uber, but they were not," Beck said after he was asked whether investigators encountered similar cases. 

The woman entered the vehicle with "trepidation," Beck said. The driver traveled about two blocks east of the pick-up location at 8th Street and Vermont Avenue and sexually assaulted her, Beck said.

The woman was choked during the attack, Beck said.

"She was choked unconscious at least three times, she was brutally sexually assaulted," said Beck, who added that the victim fought back "valiantly."

Neighbors heard the woman screaming and called police, who also heard the screams and found the SUV. "Several" 911 calls were received regarding the assault, Beck said.

Officers saw the attack occurring in the back seat of the SUV and smashed the windows because the vehicle's doors were locked. Beck said. The attacker sped away and "dumped out" the victim a few blocks away, according to police. 

Investigators analyzed DNA evidence from underneath the victim's fingernails, identified the suspect and served a search warrant Saturday that led to the arrest of 39-year-old Dartanyun Smith. Details regarding the arrest were not immediately available, but Beck said the man was arrested at a house in South Los Angeles.

Smith is being held on $1 million bond. It was not immediately clear whether he obtained an attorney.

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