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San Francisco Uber Driver Charged With Attacking Passenger With Hammer

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A driver for the ridesharing service Uber has pleaded not guilty to charges he seriously injured a passenger by attacking him with a hammer in San Francisco earlier this week.

26-year-old Patrick Karajah, a driver for Uber X, is accused in the alleged hammer assault. District Attorney George Gascon said Karajah hit one of his passengers in the head after an argument.

Karajah picked up two men and a woman at a San Francisco nightclub Tuesday morning at around 2:00 a.m. During the trip, the passengers started arguing about the route Karajah was taking,

One of the passengers, Roberto Chicas, told the driver he believed he was taking them too far out of the way. Harry Stern, the attorney who represents Chicas, said they were polite about it.

"They're familiar with the city. They want to share the ride, they have certain spots they want to be dropped off and he's taking them nowhere near that. So they politely complained first, and then their complaints get a little more adamant. To put it in a common way, he freaked out," Stern told KPIX 5.

According to investigators, Karajah stopped the car at Alemany Boulevard at Ellsworth and told everybody to get out.

Authorities said Karjah hit Chicas in the head – near his eye – with a hammer, seriously injuring him.

Roberto Chicas
Roberto Chicas. Authorities said Chicas was attacked by an Uber driver with a hammer on September 23, 2014. (Twitter)

When asked how Chicas was doing, Stern said, "He's not doing well. I'm happy to say that he is recovering, but the pace isn't good so far. The real concern, he is in serious danger of losing the eye and anybody can relate to that as being a horrible tragedy."

Karahaj was arrested and was in court Thursday. He pleaded not guilty to two charges:  assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury.

Word of the attack comes a day after the Gascon and the Los Angeles district attorney sent letters to Uber and two other rideshare firms - Lyft and Sidecar - accusing them of multiple violations of the law and "a continuing threat to consumers and the public."

Gascon said the companies are not following procedures that would keep them safe, such as background checks, saying he has evidence that people with significant criminal records are driving for some of these services.

Taxi companies are required by law to perform background checks.

"What is Uber doing to regulate their drivers? What kind of checks are they doing? What kind of background screening are they going to do? As far as I can tell, they're completely unregulated at this point, and that should be a concern for everybody," Stern said.

Karajah has no criminal background, Gascon said and is currently free on $125,000 bail.

In a statement sent to KPIX 5, Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend said:

"Safety is Uber's #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care. It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver's account following any serious allegations, which we have done. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation."

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