The missing persons case involving a Charlotte Uber driver has become a homicide investigation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said Monday afternoon.
Marlo Johnis Medina-Chevez, 44, left for work around 9:45 p.m. Saturday and never returned. He was last seen in the Steele Creek area of south Charlotte.
Maj. Cam Selvey told reporters the case has been transferred from the missing-persons unit to the homicide squad, in part because that unit has more resources.
“We’re still very concerned for Mr. Medina-Chevez,” Selvey said at a 4 p.m. news conference at CMPD headquarters. “We do not know his whereabouts at this time.”
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Medina-Chevez is in “grave danger,” Selvey said. “He’s not been seen nor heard from by his family, and that’s unusual.”
Selvey declined to say if police had any leads or if police know if he is alive. “I hope for the best,” Selvey said. “I have no way of knowing his condition right now.”
Uber is “being very cooperative with us,” the major said, but he declined to say if police know the person he was picking up Saturday night.
Police are focusing their search on finding his SUV, a blue 2008 Nissan Pathfinder with North Carolina tag PDV-4382.
Family members called police Sunday morning to report Medina-Chevez missing.
He was last seen wearing a gray short-sleeve shirt, jeans and sandals. He is 5-foot-5, weighs 108 pounds and has black hair.
“The last we heard of him was around 10,” Medina-Chevez’s daughter told WSOC-TV on Sunday. “He called his sister. He texted me at 9:30 p.m. and that’s the last time we heard from him. … We want you home. There’s a lot of people looking for you.”
Anyone with information on Medina-Chevez’s whereabouts is asked to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. Detective J.L. Tuttle is the lead detective in the case and his number is 704-336-8340.
Driving taxis can be hazardous work, federal statistics show. In a 2014 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of 3,200 taxi drivers hurt or killed on the job, 5.6 percent sustained injuries caused by a violent person, according to Wired.com.
Uber, which is a ride-hailing app, touts the measures it takes to keep drivers safe.
Among them: no anonymous passengers. Riders have to create an account and provide their name, email address and home phone number before they can request a ride. Uber also logs GPS data so it knows who drivers are transporting and where they’re going.
Still, accounts of Uber drivers encountering trouble are not unusual. Among news reports from the past week:
▪ Police in San Francisco are looking for an Uber driver who disappeared May 14. His Mercedes SUV was found, stripped of wheels, nearly a week later, ABC7news.com reported.
Driver Piseth Chhay, 47, a father of two, was not on duty when he disappeared but was driving to a friend’s house.
▪ In New York, an Uber driver of Bangladeshi descent sustained injuries to his face, nose and teeth Friday when he said his teenage passengers assaulted him. “Together they were just hitting me, telling me ‘You can’t stay here. You need to go back to your country,’ ” he told Bronx.News12.com.
▪ And in St. Louis, a 47-year-old driver for Uber rival Lyft was shot in the early-morning hours last Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. Witnesses heard shots and found the man unconscious in his vehicle with wounds to his back and side.
“The truth is that most of our safety incidents are abusive riders on drivers,” David Plouffe, Uber’s chief adviser, told journalists in Washington last year, the Chicago Tribune reported.