Lyft driver charged with battery after passenger says he pushed her during a ride

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Three women said they were taken on a bumpy ride, cursed at, and then left in an abandoned parking lot after telling their Lyft driver, Marcus Vasco, to pull over.

Mackenzie Thornton said she and her friends feared for their lives.

“I literally felt like I was on a Lifetime movie,” Thornton said. “You always hear about things happening like this and you never think it will happen to you.”

On May 31, Thorton said she and two friends ordered a Lyft ride to take them to the beach. She said when the driver pulled up he wasn’t alone.

“He was like, I have a dog with me, is that okay?” Thornton said. “The dog wouldn’t let my two friends pet it.”

Thornton said she visits Panama City Beach a lot and is quite familiar with the area. She said she and her friends got concerned when Vasco took a wrong turn.

Screen Capture of Thornton’s route.

“I kept checking my Lyft app and the time of arrival kept getting higher,” Thornton said. “Then he took us over the Hathaway Bridge and that’s when we realized that we weren’t going the right way.”

After questioning Vasco about where he was taking them, Thornton said she spotted his phone and noticed the route was pulled up in Google Maps instead of Lyft.

“He said he was on his Lyft app but I was like, no that’s your Google Maps app,” Thornton said.

Thornton said her questions angered him, and he started driving erratically. She cried and begged him to pull over. When he refused, she called 911.

“I made it clear that I was on the phone with 911 and that’s when he pulled over,” Thornton said. “He wouldn’t have pulled over unless he knew I was on the phone with 911.

Thornton said after they stopped, Vasco got out of the car and opened her door. She said she told him to back away and give her space, that’s when he started screaming in her face.

“He opens the trunk and throws all of our stuff on the ground,” Thornton said. “I was reading the license plate to the cop when he backed into me with his car.”

Thornton said Vasco stopped his car, got out, and started yelling at her a second time.

“He yelled get out of my face, I’ll hit you again,” Thornton said. “He chest bumped me, and spit in my face.”

Thornton said his dog jumped out of the window and charged at her. She said Vasco grabbed his dog and sped off before the cops arrived.

The following day, Thornton made a detailed post on Facebook about the incident — Vasco’s Lyft profile was included in the post. After the post went viral, two women reached out — both claiming they had also ridden with Vasco and his dog back in March.

One of the women, who wants to remain anonymous because Vasco dropped her off at her home, said she felt like she was talking him off a cliff.

“I had to be very careful about what we talked about,” the source said. “I kept trying to change the subject, trying to get him to relax a bit.”

She said she was so afraid of him that she gave him a positive review on Lyft — worried he might show back up at her home if she posted anything negative.

The other woman, Samantha Baccus, said she and her daughter were picked up by Vasco and his dog on March 20. She said he wasn’t driving for Lyft, he was driving for Uber.

“He was very jittery, hyper, and repeating himself, Baccus said.

Baccus said Vasco started cursing, speeding, and driving carelessly.

“At one point I had to ask him to please stop,” Baccus said. “He got mad and said this is my car and I can do whatever I want.”

Baccus said his dog started growling at her so she asked him to settle the dog down.

“He smacked him on the head and then he sat down,” Baccus said.

Baccus said she asked Vacus to stop cursing and threatened to report him to Uber headquarters. She said he told her he didn’t care.

“I sent in a review to Uber and it never got posted,” Baccus said.

She said she finally spoke with Uber on June 9 and discovered Vasco was still a registered driver, but has been suspended. News 13 was unable to confirm this information with Uber. News 13 reached out to the company, who said they would get back to us.

According to State Attorney’s Office, Vasco has been charged with battery without a weapon. He has a summons to appear in court on July 22.

Lyft’s website says all drivers must pass a criminal background check.

We reached out to Lyft on June 9. The company did not respond to our media request.

After publication, on June 10, we received a response. Their statement can be read below:

Safety is fundamental to Lyft. What the rider described is unacceptable, and the driver has been permanently removed from the Lyft community. We have been in contact with the rider and stand ready to assist law enforcement.

Lyft spokesperson

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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