Bellevue Police Detectives have arrested a man accused of sexually assaulting passengers after he provided them rides in Bellevue and SeaTac, police said.
The suspect, 34-year-old Ghassan Shakir, was taken into custody on April 17 and booked into King County Jail. He was charged with indecent liberties, kidnapping in the first degree with a sexual motivation and rape in the second degree. Bond was set at $2 million, the King County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Following Shakir’s arrest, detectives learned that the suspect had been a driver on the Uber and Lyft ride platforms and was operating a vehicle displaying placards from both companies. However, the suspect is alleged to have been offering his victims rides off the application, to avoid being tracked.
The Bellevue crime was said to have taken place on Jan. 20, shortly after 2 a.m. A woman, in town from Arizona, visiting Seattle, ended up in Bellevue during a night out. She was standing outside of Lucky Strike, a bar in the downtown area, waiting for a ride-share to transport her back to her Seattle hotel.
That’s when the victim accidentally hopped into the suspect’s vehicle — one that displayed a ride-share symbol on the dashboard. Inside she fell asleep and when she awoke, she found the suspect was attempting to sexually assault her. He had his hand down her blouse, charging papers state. The woman was supposed to be dropped off in downtown Seattle, but she found herself instead in an unknown location.
The victim described the culprit as having a slight accent, but could not identify where the accent hailed from.
Shakir is also accused of placing handcuffs on the woman, in an attempt to restrain the victim. The female fought back — physically resisting the suspect and yelling — and eventually the suspect removed the handcuffs. After she was freed, the woman discovered she was in Renton and located a nearby Denny’s restaurant. The woman reported the incident to police.
Bellevue detectives working the case were notified by the King County Prosecutor’s Office that the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) was investigating a rape case that occurred in March involving a similar circumstance.
On March 31, two females were walking down International Boulevard in SeaTac when they were allegedly approached by Shakir in his car, according to charging papers. He offered them a ride. They accepted the ride back to their Red Lion Hotel room, but the victim told the suspect they weren’t going to pay through the application and that she would pay cash for the trip.
After arriving at the destination, the driver allegedly then asked if he could use the bathroom in their hotel room — which was booked for an intended “girl’s day.” One of the two women passed out on the bed soon after arrival. And after entering the bathroom, the man called the conscious female over because he said he needed help locating the toilet. When the woman walked in to show him, the man allegedly pinned her up against the wall, pushed her against the ground and raped the woman.
Working alongside the Sheriff’s Office, Bellevue detectives were able to identify the suspect vehicle, a red Prius. He was contacted by authorities in the parking lot of The Village at Totem Lake in Kirkland. Investigators impounded the vehicle and a search was conducted. Inside the vehicle handcuffs were found and other evidence that tied the suspect to both cases.
Investigators are now working with officials from Kirkland and Seattle after learning of similar crimes that occurred there.
Sgt. Ryan Abbott with KCSO warned that Uber and Lyft placards could be purchased by anyone, and that it remains vital that anyone getting a rideshare always conduct their transactions through the application. Passengers should never enter a car with anyone who says they are their rideshare, if none was requested on the application.
Police believe there may be other victims and are urging anyone who believes they may have been targeted by the suspect to contact police.