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Lyft driver recounts being kidnapped, shot by rider: ‘This is how I’m going to die’

(Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News)

Brandy Littrell said she didn’t notice anything unusual about the teenager she picked up while driving for Lyft on Tuesday afternoon in Jackson, Miss.

From the back seat of her Dodge Journey, he made small talk, mentioning he was headed to his job at McDonald’s. He seemed “like a regular person going to work.”

Until, she said, he pulled out a gun. Pointing it at Littrell, the passenger later identified by authorities as 17-year-old Dontarius Magee ordered her to the back seat. After taking her phone and credit cards, he drove to a wooded area where, the Jackson Police Department said, he shot her six to seven times.

Then he drove away, leaving Littrell bleeding on the ground.

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Okay, this is how I’m going to die,’” the 36-year-old woman recalled.

Instead, she made her way to a nearby home, where a resident called 911. Through what Littrell called the “grace of God,” she survived the shooting. Littrell, who was shot in the legs, arms and the neck-shoulder area, described her ordeal in an interview Thursday from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where she is recovering.

Magee was arrested the day of the crime on charges of carjacking, kidnapping, aggravated assault and armed robbery, according to Hinds County court records. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney in the case, which was previously reported by WAPT.

Jackson Deputy Police Chief Deric Hearn told The Washington Post that police were called around 1:35 p.m. Tuesday on a report of a woman “shot multiple times in the woods.” An ambulance rushed her to surgery with life-threatening injuries. Hearns said the police department worked with the FBI to find Magee, who authorities say confessed to the crime.

A spokesperson for Lyft, an Uber rival that launched in 2012, said in a statement that the company reached out to offer support to Littrell, permanently banned her attacker and “stands ready” to assist law enforcement.

“The incident described is horrific and our hearts go out to Ms. Littrell and her loved ones,” the statement said, adding that new safety features and alerts are being explored “to help prevent these kinds of incidents moving forward.”

In its first-ever safety report, Lyft disclosed 10 reports of fatal physical assaults between 2017 and 2019 and 4,158 reports of sexual assault. The report said more than 99 percent of all rides occurred without any reported safety incident.

Littrell said she has been driving for Lyft and Uber for five years, using the extra cash for her “crafting addiction.” But after being laid off from her job as an insurance agent, she was planning to drive full-time.

She said she was on the apps Tuesday when she got a notification from Lyft to pick up Magee from an apartment complex in the Jackson suburb of Byram. He had requested two stops: one at another apartment building and a second at McDonald’s.

It was during the first stop, Littrell said, that he got out the gun and told her to get in the back of the car.

“Don’t die,” she remembered thinking to herself. “Whatever he wants, just give it to him.”

She handed over her phone and cards, hopeful she wouldn’t be hurt if she cooperated. When he pulled over and told her to face the wooded area, she thought it was just so he could get away. He told her to get on her knees, she said — “and then I heard the first shot.”

After the gunman drove away, Littrell said, “I laid there for a couple of minutes, and then I realized I wasn’t dead yet.”

She said fear for her family drove her to get help. Until learning police had made an arrest, she worried her assailant would use her phone, car and personal information to get to her house, potentially harming her loved ones.

From her hospital bed, Littrell said doctors have told her they are astounded by her survival. Even though she worries about her livelihood after losing her phone and car — key to her source of income — she’s grateful to be alive.

“At first, I was just upset that I was losing everything,” she said. “Then it turned out to be so much more.”

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