Police are trying to figure out how a Lyft passenger ended up dead on a California freeway

GoFundMe/Lavelle family.Justin Lavelle.
  • Police in Los Angeles want to know what prompted a Lyft driver to drop his passenger off on a freeway, where that passenger was later struck and killed.
  • Investigators say Justin Lavelle had some kind of altercation with driver Tariq Rasseed, during a ride on January 31. Rasseed ordered Lavelle out of the car on the side of the 110 freeway.
  • Lavelle was later struck and killed. Lyft fired Rasseed, who alleges that Lavelle had grabbed the steering wheel before he forced the passenger out of the car.

Police investigators in the Los Angeles area are trying to piece together the events that led to a Lyft passenger being left on the side of a freeway where he was struck and killed.

Twenty-three year-old Justin Lavelle was riding from West Hollywood to Long Beach on January 31 when, at some point, he and the driver, Tariq Rasseed, got into an altercation, police said. Rasseed said that Lavelle had grabbed the steering wheel and wouldn’t let go. “I couldn’t move an inch,” Rasseed told KNBC. “I would have died; I didn’t have no choice left,” the driver said.

Lavelle reportedly called his mother and a friend during the ride, telling them that he had been pepper-sprayed. “He was screaming hideously and saying, ‘Mum, mum, I have been pepper sprayed,'” Lavelle’s mother, Amy, told KNBC. She flew from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to identify her son. “He was unrecognizable,” she told reporters.

Rasseed told KNBC he did not pepper-spray Lavelle, and claimed that the passenger may have been drunk. Lavelle’s mother told the local news station that her son was having a panic attack.

Lyft deactivated Rasseed’s driver account immediately after the incident. Uber has done the same. Lyft spokesman Scott Coriell said in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened” by what happened.

“We have been in daily contact with this individual’s family to offer our support and assistance,” Coriell’s statement read in part. “We have proactively reached out to law enforcement and stand ready to assist in their investigation.”

A verified GoFundMe account established to help with Lavelle’s funeral expenses has already surpassed its $US10,000 goal.

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