Augusta, GA – A Columbia County man faces charges for attacking an Uber driver. That driver is Matthew Johnson. He signed up to work for the company to make some extra cash. He typically drives late at night, so he’s used to people who may have had too much to drink. But a Saturday morning ride, captured on camera from the dashboard of his car, had him bobbing and weaving.
What started as two people talking very loudly during a ride home courtesy of Johnson’s Uber car, quickly turned violent.
The belligerent man in the back seat, who was called Jimmy by a woman also riding in the car, is James Vautaw. The 43-year old man and a woman got an Uber ride home early Saturday morning from Matthew Johnson. Vautaw’s friend requested the ride from Bar West in Augusta to make sure he made it home safely. But after he arrived at his client’s Martinez home, the dashboard camera video shows it got ugly.
The two men engaged in a physical struggle for more than 30 seconds. Johnson fought off his attacker inside the car. He said there was a verbal exchange outside the car that lasted another 2-3 minutes. He endured all of this while trying to make some extra cash.
“The Uber driver used a can of mace to try and stop the attack,” Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Butch Askew told us.
Johnson recalled the incident saying Vautaw threatened him the entire way home.
“He said that you have no idea what I’m going to do to you when you drop me off at my house. He said I’m going to make you bleed,” Johnson explained.
Captain Askew told us Uber rides are the new thing, probably because rides can be scheduled through a cell phone application. He said the company takes steps to let riders know who their driver is, but there’s no way for the drivers to know what kind of passenger is in their car. And this isn’t the first time Uber has made headlines in recent days. A driver in Michigan is accused of going on a rampage last week and killing 6 people.
“The only thing you can really say is you hope that the Uber driver when he pulls up if he saw that the person is belligerent or extremely intoxicated before he even picked him up, just don’t even let him get in the vehicle,” Capt. Askew said.
Vautaw is now charged with simple battery. He bonded out of Columbia County Detention Center that morning.
Johnson added that he made the most money he’s made this year the same day the attack happened and he’s not stopping now.
“If anybody says, when you drop me off at my house I’m going to do this or that, they’re not going home. They’re probably going to jail,” he explained.
This isn’t the first attack. Johnson said it is the most extreme one though. He’s given hundreds of rides and only had three attacks. Those prior ones prompted him to get a dashboard camera. He said for the most part, Uber rides are safe. So safe, he’s even purchased one for his mom.