A month after Lyft failed to report driver accused in assault, he fatally kicked a taxi driver while working for Uber
‘If Lyft had cooperated with the city, authorities could have taken steps to prevent this violent driver with a hair-trigger temper from driving on another platform,” the victim’s son says.
The city has cited the ride-hailing company Lyft for failing to use a warning system meant to weed out violent drivers – specifically one who punched a customer last year and then, while at the wheel for Uber weeks later, fatally karate kicked a taxi driver in broad daylight.
Lyft was cited for failing to notify the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) that it deactivated driver Fangqi Lu from its platform because of the alleged assault – even though it was required to do so within 48 hours, the city agency tells the Chicago Sun-Times.
Had the notification been made, the city would have immediately relayed a warning about Lu’s alleged violent behavior to other ride-hailing companies in Chicago, including Uber.
Lu, 31, was working as an Uber driver four weeks after allegedly punching the customer when he fatally kicked taxi driver Anis Tungekar, 64, in the head following a traffic dispute in the West Loop.
Lu has since fled to China and been charged with murder in Cook County.
“We are very disappointed with Lyft for failing to notify us about this deactivation, and we are holding them accountable for breaking the law and putting the public in danger,” city spokesman Isaac Reichman told the Sun-Times.
The business affairs and consumer protection department, which is responsible for regulating ride-hailing companies, issued a citation last month against Lyft that could result in a fine of between $500 and $10,000.
The city issued the citation against Lyft on June 18, shortly after the Sun-Times began asking whether a communication breakdown had occurred in the wake of Lu’s alleged violent behavior while working for Lyft.
Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews did not respond directly to questions about its failure to notify the city agency, instead emailing a statement that read: “This is a terrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to the friends and family of Mr. Tungekar. We stand ready to engage with the BACP on next steps.”
Tungekar’s son, Omar, after hearing about the citation, was left shaking his head.
“My father’s death was preventable,” Omar Tungekar, 36, said. “If Lyft had cooperated with the city, authorities could have taken steps to prevent this violent driver with a hair-trigger temper from driving on another platform.”
Lyft passenger speaks out
The alleged assault that Lyft failed to report to the city involved Chicago attorney Scott Gore, who said Lu’s punch left him with a bruised ear.
According to Gore, the blow occurred after he asked to get out of Lu’s vehicle short of his destination near Wrigley Field – a request that sparked an argument.
“He says to me, ‘You wanna fight?’ and I said, ‘You hit me, and I’ll sue you,’ and he hit me,” Gore told the Sun-Times last month. A short time later, Gore reported the July 1, 2018, incident to Lyft.
Lyft took away Lu’s driving privileges the same day and two weeks later officially deactivated Lu.
Two weeks after that, on Sept. 2, Lu was picking up an Uber passenger when he became frustrated with Tungekar, whose taxi was double-parked outside a high-rise in the 500 block of West Madison Street, prompting Lu to reach out his window and hit Tungekar’s sideview mirror, according to police records.
Tungekar followed Lu about a block before pulling in front of his car at the intersection of Jefferson and Washington streets. Tungekar got out of his car and walked over to Lu’s driver’s side window, where the two exchanged words, surveillance video of the incident shows.
As Tungekar walked back to his car, Lu got out of his vehicle and kicked Tungekar in the head. As Tungekar crumpled to the ground, his head hit the pavement. He died two days later.
Lu was in police custody for 48 hours then released without being charged.
He fled to China long before an arrest warrant for first-degree murder was issued Dec. 26 – nearly five months after the fatal kick.
The seemingly glacial pace for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to bring charges, despite video evidence of the encounter, angered the Tungekar family and detectives who worked the case.
No extradition treaty
The United States and China have no extradition treaty, so there’s little hope of bringing Lu back to face trial, Chicago police have said.
To the Tungekar family and their attorney, Mike Gallagher, the missed opportunity to sideline Lu was just another in a series of red flags that were not raised when they should have been.
Other missed opportunities were laid out in a lawsuit filed in June by the Tungekar family against Uber that accuses the company of negligently hiring and retaining Lu.
According to the suit, Lu didn’t have a valid driver’s license because it had expired – and his history of violence was known to Uber.
Gore, the attorney who alleged he was punched by Lu, reported the incident not just to Lyft but to Uber and the Chicago Police Department as well, Gallagher said.
“Uber and Lyft are two multibillion-dollar corporations that ignored city ordinances and their own policies,” Gallagher said. “By allowing this violent criminal to remain behind the wheel, my client paid with his life.”
Uber did not respond to a request for comment. An administrative hearing on the citation against Lyft is scheduled for Aug. 12.
For further information, please read the complete Chicago Sun-Times article.