Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
“A large amount of vomit” in the back seat of an Uber vehicle and an argument over a “clean-up fee.”
This is what court documents indicate led to a ride-share driver shooting and killing a passenger by the side of Interstate 25 on St. Patrick’s Day.
James Porter, a 27-year-old who worked for Hewlett-Packard in Rio Rancho, died at the scene.
The driver, Clayton Benedict, has not been charged. He declined to comment for this story.
Michael Patrick, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said the case was submitted to the DA late last week.
“Prosecutors are currently going over hundreds of documents and videos,” Patrick said. “A charging decision could come sometime in the next few weeks.”
Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said it’s still considered an open investigation and police are working with the DA’s office.
APD’s homicide detectives have served a search warrant on Uber asking for Benedict’s account information, including his trips for the day, pickup times and information that indicated a ride request was accepted. The warrant was executed Tuesday.
According to the search warrant affidavit, on the evening of March 17 Benedict picked up Porter and his friend from the Salt Yard bar on Osuna near San Mateo NE.
The friend, Jonathan Reyes, later told police the two had been at the bar since 2 p.m. and although he typically doesn’t drink, that day he had six or seven drinks.
Benedict – who had been driving for Uber for the past year and a half – told detectives they were traveling south on I-25 when Reyes vomited in the back seat.
“At this point the other passenger and Clayton start to go back and forth about a potential ‘clean-up fee,'” the detective wrote in the affidavit. “James is the male arguing/pleading with Clayton not to charge him for a ‘clean-up fee.'”
That’s when Benedict said he pulled over just south of the Montaño exit and asked the men to get out of the car. He said he ended the ride and gave Porter a review of “one star.”
He said Porter slammed the door.
“Clayton opens his driver door and steps out stating ‘hey man, don’t slam my door,'” the detective wrote in the affidavit. “James walks around the car and starts to yell at Clayton; he flips his shoes off, throws his hat down and hurls his sunglasses at Clayton. At this time Clayton pulls his handgun from his holster and tells James ‘to stop, back up.'”
Benedict said Porter continued to yell at him, saying, “You’re not going to shoot me,” and began running toward traffic.
He said he backed away from Porter and then Porter walked toward the open driver’s side door and said something like “well if you’re not going to shoot me, I (am) going to run you over with your own car.”
Benedict said he fired “an unknown amount of rounds” toward Porter’s “center mass” and Porter fell to the ground.
Shortly after that, a little before 6 p.m., police arrived.
Six casings were found scattered on the ground near the driver’s side door and a black handgun lay several feet away.
Porter was dead – with two gunshot wounds under his left armpit – and Reyes was kneeling next to him.
Reyes told detectives he didn’t remember anything after getting into the car and had only vague memories of the officers taking his clothes and driving him to police headquarters. Reyes could not be reached for comment.
“Jonathan had no recollection of the incident involving James,” a detective wrote in the affidavit. “Jonathan did not know that there had been an altercation. Jonathan was in complete shock when he was informed of the news that James had been killed.”
Following his interview, Benedict was released from police custody while detectives continued the investigation.
Two and a half weeks later, in early April, Porter’s estate filed a civil lawsuit against Uber and Benedict alleging the company was negligent in the hiring, retaining and supervising of the driver. The lawsuit is pending.
In response to questions about whether Benedict still works for the company, an Uber spokesman said, “He does not have access to the app.”