AUSTIN (KXAN) — A ride-hailing driver is accused of attempting to abduct and sexually assault multiple women at the beginning of June by posing as their requested driver, police say.
Police affidavits describe two similar incidents, in which Daniel H. Kifle is accused of picking up the victim and a friend and driving off after the friend gets out of the car at their destination. In both cases, the victims were passed out in the back seat.
Kifle, 45, faces attempted sexual assault and kidnapping charges. Austin police say in both cases the rides given by Kifle were not the actual driver requested in the apps.
The first incident happened early on June 3, when two women went out downtown. One of them was “very intoxicated,” and the suspect approached them when they were outside on Sixth Street, according to an affidavit. He gave them water and then offered them a ride in his SUV, and the friend believed he was the driver they requested.
When they arrived at their destination in the 3100 block of South Lamar Boulevard, near Barton Skyway, the friend “exited the vehicle to go out and go around to help the victim get out. Upon exiting the vehicle the driver sped off,” according to an affidavit.
In an interview, the victim told police the last thing she remembers was dancing and talking at a bar.
Another incident happened on June 9, when two other women were also on Sixth Street and got into what they thought was their Lyft ride, which was Kifle’s SUV, court documents showed.
When the friend of the victim got out of the car at their destination near 44th Street in the 4300 block of North Lamar Boulevard, the driver sped off and knocked her over, the affidavit continued.
The victim told police she blacked out in Kifle’s SUV, and woke up parked in an unknown lot with Kifle attempting to force his hands down her pants. She told him to take her home and he started to drive, and she jumped out when he stopped at a stop sign.
Records from Lyft showed Kifle’s vehicle was in the area of pickup and drop off in both cases, however, police say he wasn’t “actively being a rideshare driver at the time of these assaults.”
Sgt. Sandra Benningfield says Kifle did have a ride-hailing account, though. “Just make sure the vehicle you’re getting into matches the one that’s assigned to the app and match the description. Just make sure everything adds up,” Benningfield warns.
Another incident in Lakeway
The Lakeway Police Department also reported a similar incident allegedly involving Kifle, which helped Austin police identify Kifle as a suspect.
Lakeway police were called shortly after midnight on June 8 after a woman who was picked up in downtown Austin — and got in what she believed to be her rideshare — was attacked.
According to an arrest affidavit, she woke up and realized the vehicle was stopped in an unknown area. The victim saw Kifle was talking on his cellphone and then she fell back asleep.
When the woman got to her destination and was told to get out of the vehicle, Kifle is accused of getting out and grabbing her from behind and putting his hand down her pants, sexually assaulting her. He is also accused of stealing two rings from the woman worth more than $11,000 before she was able to get away.
A review of the suspect’s pawn shop transaction history showed he had pawned approximately 20 items of women’s jewelry since December 2017.
Chief Todd Radford with Lakeway PD said, “It’s quite possible that he has done this to other people, and if there are victims out there that believe this might have occurred to them, you need to report it to your local law enforcement group and let them take a look at this case.”
Kifle is in custody in the Travis County Jail. Affidavits show his bond was set at $200,000 for each of the kidnapping charges and $100,000 for an attempted sexual assault charge.
Records show Kifle was also arrested and charged with sexual assault and robbery in Williamson County on June 22.
In an emailed statement, Lyft said, “The situations being described are truly frightening. Our thoughts are with the victims of these senseless acts. These rides did not happen on the Lyft platform, but we have been assisting law enforcement with their investigation and will continue to do so moving forward.