Last week, KSL-TV reported on a horrifying incident in Salt Lake City during which an Uber driver named James Brothers was randomly held at gunpoint by an erratically-behaving passenger who asked him with slurred speech, “Do you want to live or die?” The incident took place late at night on October 19th.
“Well, I want to live, of course,” said Brothers. He told KSL-TV, “Thoughts are going through my head as to what I need to do, and I just thought, ‘I’m going to bail because I’m not going to sit around and wait for what’s going to happen.'” He grabbed his cell phone, ripped his keys from the ignition, and jumped out of his vehicle. The menacing passenger grabbed Brothers’ shirt as he fled, but the Uber driver slipped away and called 911.
The suspect, who had begun to ask Brothers about his family prior to pulling the gun on him, turned out to be 44-year-old Byron Keith McDonald of Texas. According to CBS KUTV-2, McDonald is a federal police officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a sub-agency of the Department of the Interior charged with managing US land held in a trust for Native American tribes. At the time that he allegedly pulled his gun on Brothers, Lieutenant McDonald was traveling on official business for the BIA.
Brothers picked up McDonald and three others at a bar. McDonald, who appeared inebriated, got into an argument with the other three passengers, and, when Brothers dropped them off at a party, McDonald asked to be taken separately to a Hilton hotel. When they arrived at the Hilton, McDonald allegedly pulled his gun on Brothers.
On October 20, McDonald was arrested and charged with third-degree felony aggravated assault. According to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, surveillance video corroborates Brothers’ allegations. Gill told CBS KUTV-2, “We know that his superiors are aware of what’s going on… We don’t care whether you are a police officer, whether you are a rich person, poor person. It doesn’t matter what your status is. If you commit a crime and we have evidence to support that, we’re going to treat you like anybody else.” McDonald remained in jail for 5 days before posting bail.
Nedra Darling, a spokesperson for the Department of the Interior, issued the following statement about the incident, “Mr. McDonald was on official travel at the time of the incident… The incident is being investigated by our internal affairs division, which will make use of the investigation being conducted by the Salt Lake City Police Department.”
In comments to CBS KUTV-2, Brothers reacted to the fact that the person who pulled a gun on him turned out to be a federal law enforcement agent, “These are the individuals that [we] look up to for protection.” Though he was shaken up by the incident and no longer picks up passengers at night, Brothers continues to drive for the popular rideshare service Uber.