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Bend Police arrest Uber driver from La Pine on kidnap charge; ride-share company calls incident ‘unsettling, unacceptable’


Finally took her home after repeated requests

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) –  A 48-year-old Uber driver from La Pine was arrested in downtown Bend on a kidnapping charge Tuesday night, accused of driving a female passenger around for close to a half-hour, despite being just five minutes from her home, before eventually dropping her off.

Around 9 p.m., Bend Police officers spoke with a 19-year-old woman who reported that she used the Uber app to order a ride to her Bend home, about five minutes from her pickup location, Communications Manager Sheila Miller said.

The Uber driver, identified in the app as Rocky Eugene Earl Heath, canceled the ride and instead drove her around for 25 to 30 minutes, despite her requests to take her to her home, Miller said. He finally dropped her off after a half-hour.

Officers searched the area to find Heath’s car and conducted a traffic stop around 11:20 p.m. in the area of NW Minnesota Avenue and Lava Road in downtown Bend.

Heath, driving a 2023 Polestar 2, was arrested and booked into the Deschutes County Jail on suspicion of second-degree kidnapping and second-degree disorderly conduct, Miller said.

Officers towed the car and reported the allegations to Uber. Miller said the investigation is continuing.

The district attorney’s office filed an initial charge of second-degree kidnapping, a Class C felony, alleging Heath illegally “without consent or legal authority” drove the woman “from one place to another, with the intent to interfere substantially with (her) personal liberty.”

Heath was arraigned Wednesday on that charge, court records showed, and Deschutes Defenders was appointed to represent him. Circuit Judge Alycia Sykora set a March 19 arraignment on an expected grand jury indictment.

Heath was released from jail Wednesday afternoon, after posting 10 percent of his $20,000 bail, a jail spokeswoman said.

An Uber spokesperson told NewsChannel 21: “What’s been reported by the rider is unsettling and unacceptable. We removed the driver’s access to the Uber platform as we investigate and have reached out to law enforcement to offer our assistance.” 

The ride-sharing company also provided this information to NewsChannel 21:

  • We take reports of this nature very seriously and we have removed this driver’s access to the Uber platform as we investigate.
  • We were unable to locate any reports from law enforcement notifying us of this incident, but we have reached out to them to offer our assistance.
  • We have a team of former law enforcement professionals around the globe who are on call to work with police 24-7 to respond to urgent needs, walk them through how we can assist in an investigation, as well as proactively educate law enforcement about how we can help.
    • Here is a video about our Law Enforcement Outreach team.
  • Uber is deeply committed to the safety of riders on the Uber app. We’ve developed a number of safety features in the app over the past several years:
    • Emergency button for riders and drivers: available all around the world. Riders and drivers can either call (available everywhere) or text 911 (where available) 911 through the app.911 integration in 1800+ jurisdictions: If a rider or driver uses the emergency button in one of these cities, our tech and partnership with Rapid SOS enables key trip details to be digitally sent to 911 dispatchers including the caller's name, make and model of the Uber car, license plate, and GPS. Read more about it HERE.“Live Help” from a Safety Agent: In August 2022, we announced Live Help from an ADT safety agent. For situations that don’t require police, fire or medical, Uber users can request a call or text from an ADT agent who can stay on the phone for the duration of the trip and can reach out to 911 if necessary. Rider video here. Driver video here.PIN verification: riders have the option to receive a four-digit PIN code to provide to a driver before the trip can begin
      • Here is a GIF for how it works for riders, and a GIF of how it works for drivers.
      Audio Recording: Available in the US, Canada, and over a dozen other countries. This gives riders and drivers the ability to record audio during a trip. All audio recordings are encrypted and stored securely on the user’s device and no one—not the driver, not Uber, not the rider—has access to it. Uber can only access the recording if the user reports a safety incident and chooses to share the recording with us. You can find more information here.GPS Tracking: Every trip is tracked.RideCheck helps make sure drivers and riders are OK in the event of a possible crash or unexpected long stop.On-Trip Reporting: This feature allows riders to report a non-emergency safety issue during an Uber trip, when it is top of mind, so they don’t have to wait until after the trip ends. See blog HERE.Trusted Contacts: Riders can choose to be prompted automatically to share their trip with loved ones. Available globally. Video HERE.
    • Safety Center: a dedicated section in the app where riders can learn more about safety features and info which is available globally. Video HERE
  • Drivers and riders can report any incident or accident via the app or through Uber’s Safety Incident Reporting line - our safety team reviews this information constantly and investigates any issues. Uber’s Incident Response Team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to incidents globally.
  • In an emergency, we encourage riders to call 911.
Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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