Uber shooting concerns drivers and passengers

Clearwater Police haven't yet filed any charges after an argument between an Uber driver and a passenger ended in gunfire Sunday night.

It happened at around 10 p.m. in the 400 block of Mandalay Avenue, just outside the Hilton hotel.

Investigators said an argument turned violent when the passenger, Marc Gregory, began choking the driver, Steven Rayow.

Police said the driver, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a gun from his waistband and when the two men struggled for the gun, it went off, striking the passenger in the foot.

Mermel was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa with non-life-threatening injuries and was released Monday afternoon.

"We are fortunate that that bullet did not travel anywhere," said Rob Shaw, a spokesperson for Clearwater Police. "We know we had several witnesses that were at a restaurant nearby that were eating outdoors, so we're very fortunate not to have had any further injuries other than the person inside the car."

One of those witnesses was Anthony Miller, who had just gotten off work.

"It's kind of scary. Especially because it's close to where I work," he said.

Uber has a no-gun policy that was announced this month. No guns are allowed on either drivers or passengers.

Miller, however, said he doesn't blame drivers for carrying a weapon.

"I would probably feel safer driving with Uber knowing that someone actually can protect me if need be," he said.

Tony Diaz, who has been driving with Uber since February, said he would never consider carrying a gun in his car even if it wasn't against company policy.

"Not a smart move. I just wouldn't want to have something like that in my car because there would be an excuse to use it," said Diaz, who added he has never had any issues. "I've yet to have any problems with anybody. It's a fun job, you meet a lot of people."

Diaz said the best way for drivers and passengers to protect themselves is by paying close attention to the Uber app. Drivers and passengers rate each other on it. He won't pick up anyone with a low rating and recommends customers avoid drivers with bad reviews.

An Uber spokesperson said Rayow is temporarily suspended from driving for them while they gather the facts. The company is cooperating with law enforcement.