On Feb. 17 around 10:45 PM, 30-year-old Ryan Thornton placed a food order through the Uber Eats app. A driver by the name of Robert Bivines was assigned the delivery. According to surveillance cameras that captured their exchange, things turned sour at some point. “The victim went down to meet the driver, received his order and began walking away from the vehicle,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos told Atlanta Constitution Journal. “As the victim was walking away, it appears words may have been exchanged between he and the delivery driver.”
Police say the driver shot four times. Bivines drove away as the victim fell to the ground. Thorton was pronounced dead at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. Bivines, who was employed for the food delivery service for about a week, was arrested on Feb. 19 on charges stemming from the murder. His attorney Jackie Patterson told Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News that her client acted in self defense, as Thornton allegedly made a threatening motion toward his pockets. “My client had no choice but to defend himself.”
Thornton, a recent Morehouse College graduate, was spoken of highly by his alma mater's President David A. Thomas. “Ryan was an ambitious student with so much promise. He was well-respected by his peers and highly regarded by his professors. We at Morehouse College will keep Ryan's family in our thoughts and prayers.”
The shooting raises bigger questions about the validity of Uber's screening process for all new hires. According to the company's website, all prospective employees must pass a driving history screening, and, if approved, then undergo a criminal background check on a national, state and local level. However, it seems to have been missed that Bivines had been arrested on aggravated assault charges in DeKalb County. This is probably due to the fact that the company's background checks only go back seven years. Back in 2017, the ride sharing company was hit with a $9 million fine by the state of Colorado for letting convicted felons drive for the company.
“We are shocked and saddened by this senseless act of violence and our hearts go out to (Ryan Thornton’s) friends and family,” Uber Eats said in a statement to AJC. “We have been working with the Atlanta Police Department, and the driver can no longer access the app.”
Bivines will appear in court at 11 AM on Tuesday, Feb. 20th.