Early morning on April 3, Smith pulled up to a woman who was waiting on a street corner in Los Angeles’ Westlake District and asked her whether she was waiting for an Uber, authorities said.
“We believe that he guessed based on her actions, standing at a street corner in the early-morning hours, that she was waiting for a ride, and he guessed Uber,” Beck said during a news conference, according to KABC.
Beck said the woman got into the car “with some trepidation.” Smith then drove about two blocks and attacked her, choking the woman at least three times to unconsciousness, the chief said.
She fought back, police said — her shrill screams alerting neighbors to call 911.
Responding officers heard her cries coming from a dark-colored SUV, in which they said they saw a male suspect assaulting a woman in the back seat.
“The victim was valiantly fighting the suspect,” police said in a statement. “The officers tried to open the doors of the suspect’s vehicle, but they were locked. Officers used their batons to break the vehicle’s side windows in an attempt to render aid to the victim.”
Police said the man jumped into the driver’s seat, started the engine and stepped on the gas — driving toward officer Jhoel DeJesus.
DeJesus fired one shot at the man but missed, police said.
“The suspect vehicle continued to flee from the officers,” police said in their statement. “The officers pursued the vehicle but lost sight of it.”
Beck told reporters that officers found the woman standing in the street after she had been “tossed out by the suspect.”
The FBI and the LAPD’s Forensic Service Division helped the Robbery-Homicide Division in the investigation, collecting DNA evidence from the woman’s sexual assault kit as well as samples from under her fingernails.
Authorities then identified Smith as the suspect.
“We believed that we had a predator loose on the streets of Los Angeles,” Beck said. “We didn’t want the second crime in a series to occur.”
Smith was arrested at Saturday morning, according to police booking records. He is being held on $1 million bail.
Beck and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the public to use caution when using ride-hailing services.
“It’s so important that when you’re using a ride application like Uber to make sure that the person [driving the car] is the person they say they are,” Beck said, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.