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Charges Against Suspect in Uber Driver Shooting Change to Murder

30 Jun, 2023 Liz Carey

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El Paso, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – The charges against a woman suspected of shooting her Uber driver changed to murder Wednesday after the driver died.

Officials said Phoebe Copas, 48, of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, shot and killed Daniel Peidra Garcia, 52, after believing Garcia was abducting her and taking her to Mexico.

On June 16, Copas was in El Paso visiting her boyfriend, arrest records show. She then hired Garcia through Uber to drive her to a casino to meet him. However, when Copas saw signs saying “Juarez, Mexico” across the border, she came to believe that she was being kidnapped and taken out of the country. In response, Copas shot Garcia, causing the vehicle to hit a highway barrier along U.S. 54 South.

First responders found Garcia bleeding profusely from the back of his head. He was hospitalized with multiple shots to the head.

On Wednesday, officials determined Garcia had slim chances of recovery and the decision was made to take him off of life-support.

Officials said nothing at the scene supported Copas’ fears.

“The investigation does not support that a kidnapping took place or that Piedra was veering from Copas’ destination,” police said.

However, instead of calling the police before shooting, Copas fired first and called for help later. In fact, officials said, Copas didn’t even call for help immediately after the shooting. Instead, she took photos of the injured driver and texted it to her boyfriend, arrest records said, then called for help. When Copa exited the car, she dropped all of her belongings including the handgun used in the shooting.

When police arrived, Copas’ boyfriend was at the scene, the report shows.

Uber said it would cooperate with local investigators should they ask for it, and that it has been in touch with the driver’s family.

“We are horrified by the rider’s actions,” it said in a statement.

Charges against Copas were upgraded from aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury to murder. Additionally, her bond increased from %1 million to $1.5 million, officials said.

Garcia’s wife, Ana Piedra, set up a GoFundMe account to help with hospital and funeral expenses because Garcia was the family’s sole provider.

“He is the sole provider for our family and was unable to work for a while because he hurt his knee at his last job and had to have surgery on April 18, 2023,” Piedra said on the GoFundMe account. “He was very happy to finally be able to work and bring home income for this tragedy to happen, today we unfortunately had to disconnect my husband as the doctors did not give any chance that he would survive, after being disconnected he sadly passed, the money collected will be used to pay for hospital and funeral expenses and other difficulties that may arise.”

Because Uber drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees, drivers for the company do not receive any benefits like unemployment or workers’ compensation despite providing the majority of the company’s processes.

While legislation passed in California in 2019 required Uber to treat its drivers as employees, in March an appeals court said the company can treat its California drivers like independent contractors, allowing the tech giant to bypass laws requiring worker protections and benefits in that state.
"Today's ruling is a victory for app-based workers and the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 22," Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, said of the appeals court’s ruling. "We're pleased that the court respected the will of the people."

Advocates, labor unions and their allies called the ruling a blow to workers.

"Today the Appeals Court chose to stand with powerful corporations over working people, allowing companies to buy their way out of our state's labor laws and undermine our state constitution," Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation, told CBS News in March. "Our system is broken. It would be an understatement to say we are disappointed by this decision."

Didi Lopez, the victim's niece, said her uncle was not a criminal or a kidnapper.

"It’s so easy to go make your assumptions and just make up scenarios. But that’s not who he is," she said. "He’s a hardworking man."

The family just wants justice for his death, she said.

“It wasn’t fair that that’s how the situation played out,” Lopez said. “I wish she would’ve spoken up, asked questions, not acted on impulse and made a reckless decision because not only did she ruin our lives, but she ruined her life, too. We just want justice for him. That’s all we’re asking.”


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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