An intoxicated man has been arrested in Florida after attacking a Lyft driver because he was angry over a plastic partition installed inside the vehicle for protection against the coronavirus, police say.
Travis Smith, 36, is now facing battery and child abuse charges stemming from the startling incident captured on video that unfolded early Sunday in Palm Coast while he, his friend and that person’s 7-year-old son were being given a ride, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a very dangerous situation for not only the people inside the vehicle but for the other motorists on the roadway,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement. “This drunk attacked an innocent driver and put numerous lives in danger.”
Dashcam video released by police begins with Smith striking up a conversation with the driver about the plastic covering separating the front and rear of the vehicle’s interior.
“How did you seal that up … like, you did that yourself?” Smith asks.
“Yea, I did it myself,” the driver responds.
The conversation continues and Smith eventually calls the driver a “liar” before a light turns on in the back of the vehicle.
“Did you open the door man?” the driver says.
“Nope, nobody has opened the door,” Smith responds.
Just over a minute later, the video shows Smith pulling down the partition and grabbing the driver while the other passenger and his child – who is upset and screaming – flee from the vehicle.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office says it arrested Smith after responding to the scene and observing “two males physically fighting” in the street.
They say Smith, who “was visibly intoxicated,” told investigators he was traveling home from the beach when the driver started operating the vehicle recklessly.
“In order to protect himself and his friends, Smith said he grabbed the driver and forced him to pull over which is when the physical altercation spilled over into the street,” police said in their statement.
Yet when investigators spoke to the driver, he said Smith suddenly attacked him and put him into a chokehold, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, according to police.
“Deputies reviewed the dash camera footage that captured the interior of the vehicle and saw the events matched exactly as the Lyft driver had described,” police concluded, adding that the driver suffered minor injuries.
Responding officers gave the other passenger and his child a ride to a hotel. Smith, meanwhile, was booked into and then released from a local jail after posting $7,500 bond, police say.
“These rider-share services can quickly become dangerous and drivers should be cautious of who they let in their vehicle,” Staly warned.