CLEVELAND — Cynthia Norman told News 5 she has driven for rideshare apps since their inception and she’s dealt with her fair share of rude customers.
“This was something unusual I had never seen,” Norman said.
However, she said nothing could have prepared her for being carjacked while on the job.
“He opens the door, he gets in and he said, ‘Oh, I’m cold. Do you care if I sit up front,’” Norman said. “I could see it’s about to go bad.”
Norman said she picked up two Lyft passengers from the Nottingham Place Apartments early Sunday morning before driving both men to NEO Sports Plant on Euclid Ave.
“It starts to get pitch black. It’s dark,” Norman said. “I asked them, ‘Is where you want to be?’ And in my mind it’s dark. It looked like a factory. I already knew this was going to be some bull.”
She said that’s when the fight of her life began.
“The guy in the passenger seat says, ‘B****, it's a carjack.’ When he punched me in my face, the one that's behind me, he grabbed me around my throat like this,” Norman said. “This one in the back is like, ‘Hey man. Why don't you use the knife I gave you?’”
To add insult to her physical injuries, a spokesperson for Lyft confirmed Norman was terminated from the rideshare company for violating its strict no-weapons policy.
“I just leaned on the armrest because my gun is in the armrest, but the idiots don't know it's in the armrest,” Norman said. “He walked back to the door again. I just opened up the thing, pulled my gun out and just aimed toward the door and started shooting.”
Lyft’s ‘No Weapons’ policy is listed on its website as follows:
“Our ‘No Weapons’ policy applies when you are doing business as a representative of Lyft, which includes times that you are driving for Lyft, as well as times that you are visiting a Lyft Hub.
This means that even in places where it is legal to carry a weapon, we ask that you do not carry a weapon on any Lyft property.
We approach this from a community perspective. It's hard to know what someone else is or isn't comfortable with. The mere presence of a weapon might make another community member distressed and fear for his or her own personal safety.
At a minimum, a ‘weapon’ includes any form of firearm. There are many items that could be considered weapons besides firearms, such as handguns, stun guns, explosives, knives, sling shots and tasers. Lyft reserves sole judgment on what else may constitute a ‘weapon.’ If you have any questions about whether various items could be considered a ‘weapon’ under this policy, please contact Lyft Support before bringing any questionable items onto Lyft property.”
Matt Bangerter, a criminal defense attorney, said Norman isn’t subject to criminal charges for acting in self-defense.
“She does have the benefit of the Castle Doctrine and then Ohio just passed the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law in December,” Bangerter said. “She's certainly within her legal rights to defend herself if she's being carjacked.”
However, he said her employment with a privately-owned company is a different story.
“If that's their policy, whether it's right or wrong or fair or unfair, then there's no legal issue with them having a policy,” Bangerter said. “Lyft is a private company and Ohio is what we call an at-will state, where unless she's under some sort of contract, she can be terminated for any legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason that the company decides.”
Norman said her phone was stolen during the attack and she was unable to access Lyft’s ‘safety tool kit,’ which alerts the company of accidents or issues with passengers.
“If I don't have the phone to call you to get help, what's the next thing I need to do to get help? The only thing I can do is either pull out a taser, pull out a gun, a bat, or a knife, beat the hell out of somebody and then call the police,” Norman said.
She said policies need to change to better protect rideshare drivers.
“You want me to not carry a gun or mace or taser? You want me to depend on you,” Norman said. “I’m going to do what I’ve got to do and if that means you want to deactivate me, so be it, but I’ve got to return home.”
Following the attack, Norman drove herself to the Cleveland Division of Police’s Fifth District headquarters and reported the carjacking.
No arrests have been made as of Wednesday.