Uber drivers are generally hard-working people who simply want to make a living by driving people across town. And while a clean car and good manners are key, Uber employees need to know how to look after themselves on the job, just in case trouble arises.
When Robert Westlake started his Uber shift he assumed it would be a night like any other; Some drunk passengers and some measly tips were what Robert was expecting. When he was chased in a pickup truck by an angry and jealous boyfriend who thought his girlfriend was in the car, the night would be anything but standard.
At the Bar
Jason Boek had a volatile relationship with his girlfriend. The couple was on and off every Monday and Thursday it seemed, and Boek sure had a temper when it came to ‘love.’ People were drinking a bunch at the bar in Dundee, Florida that night, and it was time to call an Uber driver to take people home.
Boek’s girlfriend had a lot to drink that night, but she still had her wits about her. When she noticed a friend at the bar had too much to drink, she did the right thing and called an Uber car so the drunk women would make it home safely and in one piece. But Boek got completely the wrong end of the stick.
When it comes to late-night bars and excessive drinking, it’s best never to make any assumptions. Boek already had anger issues and was always jealous that his girlfriend was seeing other men even if she wasn’t. But when his girlfriend’s drunk friend entered the Uber car, Boek assumed it was his girlfriend, and that made him see red.
It was late at night, the street lighting was dim, and Boek simply got it all wrong having misjudged the situation. While the drunk women was inside the Uber, Boek’s girlfriend had returned to the bar to carry on socializing and drinking with her other friends. Boek, however, was convinced his girlfriend was in the Uber and decided to give chase.
Boek often sent his girlfriend angry flurries of text messages, especially when he had been drinking heavily. Even though she swore blind that it wasn’t her in the Uber but her friend, Boek didn’t believe her and threatened her by text. “I’m going to eff up the Uber driver.” The angry man was not behind the wheel of his pickup truck following the driver, Robert Westlake.
County Sheriff Grady Judd explained in a press conference what happened next. “The boyfriend is explosive,” he said. “He’s stalking his girlfriend. He’s angry with her, and he tells her, ‘I’m going to eff up the Uber driver.’” The Sheriff continued: “Boek tailgates him a minute, then he pulls out beside him, rides beside him a couple of seconds… and then starts to pass him and forces him to a stop in the roadway,” he said.
Judd explained that once the vehicles were stationary, about six seconds later, Boek jumped out of his pickup truck aggressively and approached Westlake’s vehicle. The conversation that ensued between the two men was tense, while Westlake had no idea whatsoever what the issue was in the first place. What happened next no one expected.
Got a Gun
“I say something?” Westlake asked Boek, to which he responded, “You know I got a pistol?” Westlake had no reason not to believe the man threatening him who was holding his cell phone like a gun, exclaiming: “You want me to f—ing shoot you?” At that point Westlake panicked a little, assuming his life was in danger and that he was about to be shot.
Stand Your Ground
The stand your ground law, which is also known as the “line in the sand,” establishes a situation whereby any person has the right to defend themselves against threats or violence. The law applies to the extent that one can even use lethal force if they feel their life is in danger. This was a clear cut case of Westlake standing his ground in what he perceived as a deadly threat.
“Oh My God”
Westlake took out his pistol and shot Boek once in the chest, as the drunk passenger beside him screamed “Oh my God!” Westlake immediately made a call to 911 explaining that Boek “ran me off the road, jumped out of his vehicle, I couldn’t get away.” But Westlake had no idea that the man coming towards him was only holding a cell phone.
For whatever reason, Sherriff Judd saw it fit to release the audio from that 911 to the public. In it, Westlake said to the dispatcher, “He (Boek) came towards me, shouting he’s got a pistol reached toward his waistband. I fired one shot from my pistol. He dropped his cell phone I kicked it away, I didn’t realize it was a cell phone at first.” However, Westlake immediately came to assist the man he had just shot: “I’m applying pressure to the wound, he’s faintly breathing,” he said.
In what some consider a bizarre statement, Sheriff Judd told reporters, “At the end of the day the message is clear, don’t mess with the Uber driver. Leave the Uber driver alone because he just might be a certified police officer in waiting.” As it happened, Westlake had a license to carry a gun and had just finished training at the police academy.
Judd also turned a few heads when he stated in the press conference that, to his mind, the homicide was justified, “This is a justifiable homicide all day long. You have the right to protect yourself,” he said: “This is a classic ‘stand your ground’ case.” But Westlake felt terrible about what had happened.
A spokesperson from Uber released a statement about the fatal incident: “We are saddened by this unfortunate incident and will continue to work with police on their investigation.” At the same time, Boek’s mother Michele said about her son, “He’s not a bad person. He needed help.” But Westlake feels guilty for taking a man’s life, even though he felt he had no other option.
Boek’s sister, Jenna Irby, also spoke to reporters from her home, explaining to them the grief the family is feeling right now. “How he was portrayed in that press conference is not who he is as a person,” she said. “Now my 2-year-old son is never going to know him.”
Saving a Life
Having trained at the police academy, Westlake rushed over to Boek to attempt to save his life as he lay on the floor bleeding. At one point, Westlake thought he could save the man’s life. “I thought for a moment that I hit it in a spot where he could survive. I thought for a moment after doing compressions (that) I had him back,” he told reporters.
The whole event was also traumatic for Westlake who explained: “Everything I do now I’m going to be reminded that this other person doesn’t get to do it. So it’s hard to enjoy some things.” On top of that, Uber suspended Westlake saying they would evaluate his status once the investigation into the incident is complete.
Filled With Doubt
Westlake, 38, has many regrets about what happened on that fateful night. “Everybody tells me what I did was right, but you feel like, ‘did I have to?’ after the fact,” he told reporters. “I wish the whole chain of events didn’t happen,” he added. But no one is suggesting that Westlake set out to commit murder, and was, as previously mentioned, just standing his ground.
For their part, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office stated recently that they would not be bringing a case against Westlake. They confirmed that the investigation: “Remains open pending the results of Boek’s autopsy.” After that, the sheriff’s findings will be forwarded to the Office of State Attorney Brian Haas for consideration.
While the details of this case are tragic, especially for the Boek family, it does highlight the importance of the stand your ground principle. Boek was mistaken in his judgment of the situation and should have thought twice before pretending to be holding a firearm. Many hope that this incident will dissuade others from threatening taxi and Uber drivers alike.