Shooting spree raises questions about Uber driver screening

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A mass shooting incident in Michigan involving an Uber driver that killed six people and injured two others is raising questions about the ride-hailing company's driver screening procedures. 

Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton shot and killed six people in a shooting spree on Saturday, The Associated Press reports

Dalton allegedly picked up a passenger who requested a ride in between shootings, according to the AP.  

"We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan," Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said in a blog post on the company's website. "Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can." 

At least one lawmaker who has been critical of Uber's screening procedures in the past said the company has a responsibility to thoroughly check the backgrounds of potential drivers, although she stopped short of blaming the company for the Kalamazoo shooting. 

“With rapidly expanding operations, companies like Uber have a responsibility to conduct comprehensive screenings and background checks on all employees," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) said in a statement. "Though the sharing economy continues to provide a number of benefits for consumers around the country, companies must do everything they can to ensure that consumers are safe when using their services."  

Uber has recently settled a class action lawsuit over its inclusion of a "Safe Ride Fee" and its advertising about safety. The company was forced to pay $28.5 million to 25 million passengers who took trips between 2013 and 2015 and rename the charge a "booking fee." 

Uber has said no background check for drivers can be completely foolproof. 

"Technology enables us to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during and after a trip in ways that were simply not possible before smartphones," the company said in a blog post about the safety fee settlement.  

It said it does this by "sharing driver information with riders — their license plate and photo ID — before they get into the car; by tracking trips using GPS from beginning to end; and by enabling riders to share their ETA or route with family and friends."

"However no means of transportation can ever be 100 percent safe. Accidents and incidents do happen. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the language we use to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise," it said. 

Kalamazoo police officials have said Dalton did not have a criminal record prior to Saturday's shooting, according to reports. 

Uber says on its website that drivers' backgrounds are checked thoroughly before they are allowed to pick up passengers on the company's behalf. 

"All drivers in the US must provide their license and vehicle documentation before being able to drive with Uber," the company says in a post on its website. 

"They’re also required to go through a pre-screening process that includes a review of their motor vehicle records and a search through criminal records at the county, state, and federal levels."

Updated with new information at 4:35 p.m. David McCabe contributed.