MEDFORD, ORE. -- A car chase through the heart of Medford on Wednesday led to the arrests of four suspects related to a reported armed robbery at Econo Lodge last Friday, according to Medford Police. The fifth suspect, later identified as 30-year-old Sadele Threets, was arrested later that evening, in the middle of his Lyft ride.
Mary Carolin was his driver. She picked him up for a ride, not knowing that police were looking for him and that he was a suspect in the armed robbery.
Carolin has been driving for Lyft for almost a year. She's given rides to people she thought looked 'sketchy' before but Wednesday night's encounter takes the cake.
"I don't ever want that to happen to me again," Carolin said.
She picked up Threets from an Airbnb on the 3000-block of Lone Pine Road in Medford.
"He did seem like he was kind of in a hurry but not where he was rushing enough that it was concerning to me," Carolin thought back.
Oddly enough, Carolin vaguely knew Threets. Her daughter used to be friends with his sister. When she was pinged for the ride on the Lyft app, she recognized the unique name but couldn't quite remember a face. When he came out of the Lone Pine Road home, she remembered who he was. She remembered his past run-ins with the law but thought he must be trying to turn his life around.
"There was nothing about his demeanor that said 'I'm on the run from the police' or 'the police could bust me at any moment.'"
All of that changed almost 20 minutes later. Medford Police cars and officers stopped them at around West McAndrews Road and North Ross Lane.
"They're yelling, 'PUT YOUR HANDS UP! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!' She said putting her hands up like she did yesterday. "I remember looking at [Threets} and saying, 'what did you do?!' Then I look out my windows and there are cops with guns in my face. I started just screaming, 'PLEASE DON'T SHOOT ME! I'M JUST THE LYFT DRIVER!'
Carolin remembers police telling her she was okay and she wasn't in trouble. Officers had been waiting for Threets to come out of the Airbnb and knew she was unfortunately just the Lyft driver caught in the middle of a potentially dangerous situation. Carolin said Threets was arrested moments later and he was calm the entire time.
"I guess when you live that kind of lifestyle the police pointing guns in your face is not a big deal to you," Carolin said. "It certainly is to me. It was very, very scary. I don't want that to happen to me ever again. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone."
Carolin said she was instructed to pull over into the parking lot of a business on the corner. Police went through the car for any evidence.
"There was a little pouch that he had that was on the front seat that was left there when he got out. It had a gun in it. That really scared me because what if he had pulled that gun? What if he had been stupid enough to pull that gun out? I probably wouldn't be here."
Wednesday night's terrifying encounter isn't the first scary situation Carolin's been forced to deal with while driving for the rideshare company. She said someone tried to assault her. She came across some difficulties reporting it because that person's friend requested the ride. She reported it to the police but only had a description of what he looked like. Carolin said there are a lot of protections for Lyft riders, not so much for the drivers and some of the rules are double standards. She said she's not allowed to carry a gun with her while she's driving and said she sees the good and bad in that. Her drivers, however, can.
"I cannot have a Lyft driver app if I don't allow them to have a picture of me and my car. I pick up people all day long who are not forced to upload a picture of themselves so I cannot identify them."
Carolin will continue driving for Lyft for now. She's nearing 900 rides and two have been scary. A percentage she acknowledged is actually pretty good. She left with one message.
"If you're going to commit a crime, please don't call for Lyft or Uber to make your getaway. We don't want to be in the middle of your drama. We're just innocent people trying to make a living," Carolin said. "Call a friend."
Carolin added you could also get extra charges. Threets didn't make it to his final destination, but he paid for the entire ride.
NewsWatch 12 reached out to Lyft about the situation. The company responded with this statement:
"Safety is fundamental to Lyft. What the driver describes is frightening, and the rider's access to Lyft has been permanently removed. We have also reached out to the driver, and stand ready to assist law enforcement."
Five total suspects have been arrested. Medford Police are looking for one more. The case remains under investigation.
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