A rideshare driver in Massachusetts has been arrested on a kidnapping charge after he allegedly trapped a woman inside his car in Brighton late Thursday night, police said.
Kamal Essalak, 47, of Acton, was arrested Saturday on an outstanding warrant out of Boston Municipal Court. Essalak was arrested in the area of 7323 Avalon Drive in Acton, Boston police said Sunday.
Essalak was wanted by Boston police detectives in connection to an incident that occurred on March 18, around 8:30 p.m., in the area of 1139 Commonwealth Avenue.
Uber confirmed Essalak was driving for them. The company said in a statement they immediately removed the driver's access when they became aware of the situation. Uber has also been in contact with the victim, a company spokesperson said.
"What's been reported is horrifying and something no one should have to go through," an Uber spokesperson said. "We appreciate Acton Police Department's quick actions that helped lead to an arrest in this case."
According to the Boston Police Department, a woman contacted police to report that she had requested a ride via a common online ridesharing service. When she got into Essalak's vehicle, the woman told responding officers, Essalak was behaving strangely, prompting her to request to be dropped off and let out of the vehicle.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
When Essalak stopped the car, the woman told police she tried to open the door but found that the child safety locks had been enabled on both rear doors, preventing her from getting out.
The woman reported to officers that she began to scream and bang on the glass windows, hoping to draw attention to the unfolding situation. As she did this, the woman told police that Essalak began to climb into the back seat, laughing periodically.
The woman was able to slide around Essalak and get into the driver's seat, police reported, and she was then able to unlock the door and get out of the vehicle, making her way to safety.
College students on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston said they were shocked to hear what happened Thursday night.
“Immediately I thought if that happened to me, I don’t know what I would do,” one student said.
“I’ve heard lots of podcasts where that’s happened to females in Ubers and it’s pretty scary because there’s really no other way to get out,” college student Julia Merritt said.
The Boston Police Department advises anyone utilizing ridesharing services to take an extra moment to see if child safety door locks have been enabled in the vehicle they request. On most modern cars and SUVs, these safety locks are located on the inside panel of the rear doors, below wherever the door latch mechanism is located. They are usually quite small and made of dark colored or black plastic making them difficult to see under darkened conditions.
Women in the Boston area say this is just another thing they’ll have to be mindful about.
“We’ve had our fair share of ride shares where it’s been uncomfortable feeling like maybe something weird is going on but everything has worked out in the end, just being hyper aware when in the Uber,” Erin Haden said.
Essalak is expected to be arraigned Monday in Brighton District Court. It's unclear if he has an attorney who can speak to the charge he is facing.
According to Uber, the company launched a survivor resources hotline last year, which provides immediate, confidential and trauma-informed support for survivors reporting critical sexual assault incidents related to the Uber app. The company spokesperson said it's staffed by RAINN support specialists who are experienced in working with victims of sexual violence and can help survivors better understand their options related to short- and long-term support, including therapy, service providers, and reporting to law enforcement.
RAINN will also help facilitate assistance available to victims through an established Uber support fund which will provide resources such as trauma-informed counseling and other means of support.
Additionally, the spokesperson said, the company has 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 and walk them through how the company can assist in an investigation.