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Student accuses LYFT driver of harassment on campus

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A University at Albany student has filed a complaint against a LYFT Driver with a previous arrest record, after he attempted to forcibly remove her from a ride for cursing in his vehicle.

On April 1st Pilar Carerra, 19, was at Collins Circle when the LYFT she had requested arrived. At 12:23 pm Carrera entered the vehicle of 58-year-old LYFT driver Todd M. Warnken.

Warnken was arrested in 2016 for aggravated harassment charges after being thrown out of a grocery store for threatening to beat up a black woman and calling her a racial slur. Just ten months after that, he was kicked out of a school board meeting for confronting a black school board member, according to the Times Union.

His car had not yet left UAlbany when a situation began which left Carrera so shaken up she has decided to leave the university.

Carrera said that she was mid-conversation on the phone with a friend when she climbed into the backseat of the vehicle. During the conversation she let out a swear word.

“He immediately turned around and yelled, ‘There will be no cursing in my car’ with no warning at all he was just screaming,” Carrera said.

Warnken could not be reached for comment as of publication Friday.

Carrera, who is 4 foot 11 inches and weighs in at about 105 pounds, says she was terrified when he stopped the car and attempted to drag her out.

Video Carrera took at the time shows Warnken putting his hands on her. He was able to pull her purse and headphones out of her grip, ripping both handles off the bag and tearing the wires of her headphones.

“There were at least three cars around us when we were stopped at the light, and he assaulted me,” Carrera said, “ No one did anything, that’s the saddest part.”

Before she could get out of the vehicle on her own, Warnken got back into the car and began to drive off of the campus. Carrera was then able to convince him to let her off at the side of the road

“I didn’t start crying until I got out and processed the situation. No cab driver is worth my life, I was scared he would knock me out and drive off campus,” Carrera said. “ At no point did I put my hands on him or purposely disrespect him, even after the whole incident.”

Carrera later called 911 and two UPD officers came to question her in her dorm on Dutch Quad. She said that they initially told her there is nothing that could be done, but that she was welcome to file charges.

UPD confirmed in a statement that the officers advised Carrera of her rights to file a complaint, and that on Thursday afternoon she filed one alleging harassment.

“The complaint will be forwarded to Albany City Court for adjudication,” the statement said.


Following the incident, Carrera decided to find justice through social media, sharing the video evidence on Instagram to her 18,000 followers.

The posts quickly gained attention and were shared over 20,000 times. While thousands of people stand by her, Carrera says many people are doubting the situation and some are even accusing her of fabricating the incident for attention.

“People on Instagram don’t know me; they just know the person they see on social media. They don’t know how small I am. I’m 4’11, people are underestimating the situation,” Carrera said.

Still, Carrera said that her supporters by far outweigh the number of haters on social media. Since the original posts, three other females reached out to her saying they too had driven with Warnken and had negative experiences with racist undertones.

After Carrera reached out to Lyft, they released a statement indicating that Warnken’s account was deactivated and that he will no longer be driving with LYFT.

“That is not enough,” Carrera said. “It’s not only about getting him fired from Lyft. What if he gets hired by Uber? He should not be working in a job where he has to interact with people.”

Carrera says that Warken also decided to file a complaint to Lyft against her, causing her account to be deactivated as well. However, she says she is done with Lyft and Uber after the incident.

Unfortunately, Carrera is also done with her time at UAlbany. She says she did not feel like she received the support that she would have liked from the University Police Department as well as the Albany Police Department. She is leaving back home to the Bronx and looks forward to being with her family.

After the incident with Warken she says she was unable to eat for a day and a half and has lost the motivation for everyday activities such as cleaning her room and attending class.

University at Albany communications specialist Mike Nolan said that the university’s CARE services had attempted to contact and meet with Carrera.

Michelle Mullen is a staff writer for the Albany Student Press.

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