Newly released video footage appears to show California police officers severely beating an Uber driver with a law enforcement dog who was behind with payments for the car he rented for his work.
San Ramon police stopped Ali Badr, a 42-year-old Egyptian immigrant, in December 2020 after a car rental company reported his vehicle was stolen. Footage from the San Francisco Chronicle shows how the police in the Bay Area City release the dog without warning within seconds of stopping the unarmed and barefoot driver, although Badr did not fight back.
The dog clung to Badr’s right arm for almost a minute, tearing it so badly that it required several surgeries. In a lawsuit filed last month, Badr, who was never charged, said he was left with “severe physical and psychological injuries” and had not made full use of his arm and hand since the incident.
“Everyone is talking to me at the same time,” Badr told the Chronicle. “They’re yelling at me and everyone has their guns. I did exactly what they say. “
The case has thrown a harsh light not only on police tactics but also on the rental agreements of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Badr, who was a social worker in Egypt before moving to the US, previously drove his own vehicle for Uber and Lyft but could no longer afford the payments after the pandemic reduced his income, the newspaper reported. In August 2020, according to the lawsuit, he received a car from the rental company CarMommy through a rental agreement with HyreCar, a rental company that serves gig employees.
Ali Badr rented a car to keep getting Uber rates. From a company that offers carpooling. He was late with a couple of payments. The owner reported it as stolen, according to his lawsuit. An automatic license plate reader alerted the police, which led to a traffic control. Https://t.co/EDrTRU5o9P
– Matthias Gafni (@mgafni) January 3, 2022
He defaulted on his payments towards the end of the contract, the Chronicle reported, but made arrangements to pay the company. CarMommy’s CEO, John Blomeke, reported the vehicle stolen, which was agreed in Badr’s contract, if he defaulted on payments and “met other criteria,” the newspaper said. HyreCar declined to comment on the matter, while Uber and CarMommy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Leases like this became common as Uber and Lyft expanded in the US. Short-term car rentals through partners like HyreCar present fewer hurdles than typical car rental companies, and the short-term rentals gave Uber and Lyft access to a new pool of drivers.
However, some drivers have claimed that the rental agreements can be predatory, sometimes requiring higher rental and other costs in exchange for lower wages. For some drivers like Badr, it has been difficult at times to make enough cash to cover monthly or weekly payments. At this point, the drivers usually had to return the vehicle immediately. For many this has meant the loss of at least one source of income and part of their temporary home.
The dash and bodycam video shows Badr apparently trying to put on his shoes and cooperating with the officers’ demands during a traffic stop. But within seconds, an officer releases the big dog, who immediately bites Badr on the arm. When the dog attacks him, Badr yells and yells repeatedly, “What have I done? What did I do? ”While officers inspect the car with guns drawn.
Badr told the Chronicle that after being transported by ambulance, he was handcuffed to a hospital bed and operated on for his injuries. Police charged Badr with vehicle theft and resisting the arrest, but Contra Costa district attorney declined to bring charges of “insufficient evidence and in the interests of justice” in March, a prosecutor said.
The San Ramon police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to his lawsuit, Badr suffered “permanent and extensive” damage to his arm and hand, which are severely scarred, and “underwent significant psychological treatment and therapy.” The city of San Ramon, the police chief and the officers are named in the lawsuit along with HyreCar, CarMommy and company director Blomeke.
U.S. police dogs bite thousands of people each year and are widely used on individuals who are non-violent or suspected of minor or, in some cases, no crime, according to a Marshall Project investigation. Victims of such attacks are struggling to hold accountable as lawsuits involving excessive dog-bite violence are difficult to win, the outlet said.