When an Uber driver picked up a woman in Leavenworth, Kansas, he was surprised when a man pointed a shotgun in his face.
Jeff Criswell, 59, said he has driven for Uber part-time since 2014. But the frightening episode that unfolded when he picked up this rider on May 25 was unlike anything that had ever happened to him before.
“I’ve done 3,200 Uber rides,” Criswell said. “Trust me, nothing ever remotely comes close to this.”
Criswell was driving through Leavenworth County that day, traveling for his other job, when he decided to answer a request for an Uber ride before heading back to his home in Lee’s Summit.
The request came from a woman at a home on the southern outskirts of Leavenworth. Criswell arrived and pulled his green Kia Soul into a gravel driveway at the home.
The woman climbed into the backseat of his car. As she got settled and they made small talk, they were stopped cold by a deadly threat.
A man stepped out of the house with a shotgun in his hand. He pointed it at Criswell’s face.
The expression on the man’s face “was like death,” Criswell said. “It was very surreal. Nothing ever happens like this.”
The man with the gun told the woman she wasn’t going anywhere. When Criswell protested that he was just an Uber driver, the man said: “I don’t care who you are,” Criswell recalled.
The woman in the back seat was silent. She did not immediately get out of the car.
But the man with the shotgun repeatedly insisted she could not leave the home.
Eventually, Criswell said, he told the woman she should probably get out of the car.
Criswell drove away and called Leavenworth police.
He later circled back to see if the woman was still at the home and found her walking along the road, he said. When he offered her a ride, she declined.
Local law enforcement arrested Frederick Stitt Jr. and booked him into the Leavenworth County jail. He posted bond and was released May 29.
Stitt, 50, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson.
Attempts to reach Stitt by phone Wednesday were not immediately successful. It was unclear whether he was represented by a defense attorney.
Kayla Whaling, a spokesperson for Uber, said Criswell reached out to Uber’s support team after the incident. Uber will work with law enforcement to provide additional information to the investigation, Whaling said.
“What Jeff has described is concerning and our support team took actions to help address as soon as we received the report,” Whaling said.
Criswell said the experience has stuck with him for weeks.
“In a weird way, I felt like I was supposed to be there,” he said.