Police arrest ride-share driver suspected of sexually assaulting women

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A 34-year-old man was arrested last Thursday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a passenger in his ride-sharing vehicle, Bellevue police said.

According to police, Ghassan Shakir is a suspect in several other similar crimes in the Seattle area.

Late Monday, the King County prosecutor filed rape charges against the driver in two cases in SeaTac last March and Bellevue last January.

Police said a woman from Arizona was visiting the area Jan. 19 and was standing outside a bar in downtown Bellevue waiting for a ride-share to take her back to her hotel in Seattle.

"This suspect pulled up to the curb and the adult female got into the back seat assuming it was her ride," said Bellevue Assistant Police Chief Carl Kleinknecht.

Kleinknecht said the woman fell asleep "while she was being driven to what was going to be her hotel."

When the victim awoke, Shakir was attempting to sexually assault her, Bellevue police said.

Police said Shakir put handcuffs on the woman, but the woman was able to fight him off. The woman eventually took the handcuffs off, was able to escape and reported the incident, police said.

Detectives with the Bellevue Police Department began investigating the incident and were notified by the King County Prosecutor’s Office that the King County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a rape case in March under similar circumstances.

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Working with investigators from the Sheriff’s Office, Bellevue police detectives were able to identify Shakir’s vehicle. They later impounded the vehicle and received a warrant to search it.

Detectives located handcuffs and other evidence in the vehicle that tied Shakir to both cases, police said. Police then arrested Shakir and booked him into the King County Jail.

Bellevue police are now working with other agencies after learning of similar crimes in Kirkland and SeaTac in March and Seattle in December 2018.

After arresting Shakir, detectives said they learned he had been a driver for both Uber and Lyft and was driving a vehicle displaying logos from both companies.

The suspect is alleged to have offered his victims rides “off app” to avoid being tracked by GPS, police said.

Police said they believe there may be other victims and are asking anyone who believes they were targeted by Shakir to report the incident.

"We believe that there are more cases out there," said Asst. Chief Kleinknecht. "And so, as a result of your coverage, we hope that more people will come forward to the local police departments to take the initial crime report and then to forward that information to the King County Prosecutor's office."

He is being held at the King County jail on $2,000,000 bail.

Both Uber and Lyft responded.

Uber said Shakir hasn't driven for them for more than a year. And he told Bellevue police Lyft dropped him a few days before his arrest.

On Monday, Lyft sent KIRO 7 the following statement in response to Shakir's arrest:

“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"