Uber driver unknowingly acts as getaway driver in gas station robbery

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KOAT/CNN) - An Uber driver in New Mexico was shocked when police showed up at his house and told him he had acted as the getaway driver for one of his passengers.

Police say suspect Austen Harris used a pair of scissors to rob a New Mexico gas station and used an unwitting Uber driver as his getaway driver. (Source: Albuquerque Police Department/KOAT/Hearst/CNN)

Uber driver Terry Owens had just gotten home from work in February when officers with the Albuquerque Police Department arrived and demanded everyone inside exit with their hands up.

Owens and his wife did so, even though they were confused about what was happening.

When they talked to officers, it was finally revealed that the last passenger Owens had driven had allegedly robbed a gas station.

"The reason you’re being detained is because the person you took to the Valero robbed the Valero,” said an officer to Owens in video of the encounter.

Owens, who was new to the job at the time and very trusting, says he had no idea he had acted as the getaway driver for the suspect, identified by police as Austen Harris.

The Uber driver had picked up Harris that night and driven him around town for about two hours, even befriending him during the trip. The last stop of the night was a Valero gas station in northwest Albuquerque.

"We pull in the parking lot, and the young man proceeded to go inside the gas station,” Owens said.

Owens says he was busy texting his wife, telling her he would be home soon, when Harris came back outside. He says the man was acting strangely and was also holding a pair of scissors.

"He’s acting a little fishy when he gets back in the car, telling me, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!’” Owens said. "He says, "I’m just using this pair of scissors to cut strings off my jacket.’”

It was late, so a tired Owens dropped his passenger off and headed home. An hour later, police were outside.

Police say Harris used that pair of scissors to rob the gas station. The suspect was arrested the next day.

Court records show the suspect pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to drug rehab.

According to the criminal complaint, Harris told police he was a privileged child, and that’s why he gets into trouble.

"At some point, accountability needs to come into play,” Owens said.

Copyright 2019 KOAT, Hearst, Albuquerque Police Department via CNN. All rights reserved.

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