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Bellevue Police arrest ride-share driver accused of sexually assaulting woman

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BELLEVUE – Bellevue Police investigators arrested a ride-share driver who’s accused of sexually assaulting a woman earlier this year.

According to police, back on Jan. 20, a woman was visiting from Arizona and came to the Puget Sound to visit friends. She was staying at a hotel in Seattle at the time, but took a ride-share to visit a friend who was a bartender in Bellevue just before 1 a.m. that night.

The victim, according to police, then ordered another ride-share through Lyft as she was trying to get back to her hotel in Seattle.

“She got into the vehicle believing that everything was normal, and that she would be driven to her hotel,” said  Assistant Chief Carl Kleinknect of the Bellevue Police Department.

Probable cause documents explain that the victim, which ended up at the front of The W Hotel, accidentally goes into the suspect’s vehicle, which was a red Toyota Prius. The suspect, later identified as 34-year-old Ghassan Shakir, had been circling the area.

“This particular driver, he was driving a red Toyota Prius, was circling around the downtown core for several minutes before he ultimately pulled up against the curb and our victim got into the vehicle with him,” said Kleinknect.

Documents also explain that the victim’s recollection was “a little hazy” and she did not have "100 percent recollection" of the night due to her alcohol consumption.

Police also said the victim fell asleep during the ride. But she awoke several minutes later with Shakir allegedly sexually groping her, according to police. She was also handcuffed, Kleinknect said.

The victim was able to fight back and was able to get away.

“The ride-share driver uncuffed her, she got out of the car, was able to figure out where she was, and was able to summon help,” said Kleinknect.

Turned out, the victim, who was unaware of the area, was able to call friends and police of her location of where the alleged attack happened in a parking lot in Renton.

Investigators were able to track down Shakir by reviewing surveillance video footage in the Bellevue area and by tracking GPS records through Lyft, according to probable cause documents.

“And ultimately last week they were able to arrest the suspect,” said Kleinknect.

Lyft released a statement saying:

“The behavior described is deeply disturbing. Safety is our top priority and there is absolutely no place for such behavior in the Lyft community. We have permanently deactivated the driver and are actively assisting law enforcement with their investigation"

Police are warning people to be extra vigilant to make sure you stay safe using ride share.

They say verify the license plate, make sure the vehicle description matches the ride share you summoned, check the driver’s identification by asking their name, and ask the driver what your name is.

The should have that information if they are legitimate drivers. Also, never take a ride that is considered "off-app" or only use cash or if any of the tracking features are off. And lastly, be aware of the text 911 feature.

“Having the interaction completely silent so that help can be on the way without them feeling like they might make the situation worse,” said Kleinknect.

According to court documents, Shakir is also alleged to have offered “off-app” rides to other victims to prevent from being tracked. Shakir is also a suspect in rape cases in SeaTac back in March, and another alleged rape that happened in Seattle in December.

Shakir is currently being held in King County Jail on $2 million bond. He is scheduled to appear for an arraignment on May 6.

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