(Adds court date, details of investigation)
By Keith Coffman
DENVER, June 7 (Reuters) - A Denver-area driver with the ride-sharing service Uber who police say fatally shot a passenger in his vehicle was charged on Thursday with first-degree murder, prosecutors said.
Michael Andre Hancock, 29, who has been held without bond in the shooting death of Hyun Kim, 45, is charged with one count of murder after deliberation, the Denver District Attorney’s Office said in a written statement.
Hancock’s initial court appearance to hear the charge was set for next Tuesday. It was not clear if he had retained or been appointed legal counsel.
According to a Denver police probable cause affidavit, a motorist who came on the scene in the early morning hours of last Friday, said Hancock told him he had shot Kim after the passenger attacked him.
When police arrived, they found Kim on the floorboards of the front passenger’s seat with “apparent gunshot wounds,” the affidavit said.
A semiautomatic Ruger pistol was taken from Hancock’s waistband after he was handcuffed, police said.
Police said they found 10 spent .40-caliber cartridges on the shoulder of the highway, but have not disclosed how many bullets struck Kim. The Denver Medical Examiner’s Office said the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The case has renewed criticism of San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc, which is facing a class-action lawsuit over the company's vetting of its contract drivers.
Uber said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the arrest of Hancock, who had worked for the service for almost three years, and that it was cooperating with Denver police. Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees.
Last November, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $8.9 million for allowing 57 people to drive for it despite “previous felony convictions, major moving violations ... and numerous instances of individuals driving with suspended, revoked or cancelled driver’s licenses,” according a statement from the agency.
Uber appealed the decision and some of the counts were dropped. A proposed $4.4 million settlement is pending before an administrative law judge, said Terry Bote, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies.
Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney