A young Allston woman told Boston police she went on a terrifying trip early Sunday morning, when a man claiming to be a ride-hail driver took an unauthorized detour toward the New Hampshire border with her in the back seat.
The unidentified woman, who is in her 20s, told police she was out with friends at Paddy O’s on Union Street near Faneuil Hall when she attempted to order a Lyft between 12:50 and 1 a.m. Sunday, according to Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman.
The woman said her cellphone battery died after she ordered the ride-hail, but soon a group of men asked her name and told her that the car had arrived, pointing to a silver or tan sedan, possibly a BMW, according to Boyle.
The woman told police she got inside, and the man behind the wheel drove in near silence for about half an hour before stopping at a gas station. There, she said, a young man approached the car, telling the woman to stay inside while he began reaching in the window, according to Boyle.
The woman said she instead jumped out and ran from the gas station into the road, where she flagged down a car that took her to Allston, Boyle said.
The woman appeared to be unsure exactly where the driver had taken her, Boyle said, but told police he said she was near the New Hampshire border.
Once safely back in Boston, the woman declined medical treatment from Boston Emergency Medical Services, Boyle said.
The incident is under investigation.
Lyft confirmed Sunday that the woman had summoned a ride but said it was unclear whether the driver who responded was her abductor. That driver’s account has been deactivated while Lyft investigates, the company said.
“We take any allegation like this incredibly seriously, and are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident,” Lyft said, adding that it had contacted the woman to offer support and had reached out to law enforcement.
The attempted abduction bore disturbing similarities to two high-profile kidnappings last winter.
On Jan. 19, 2019, a 23-year-old woman left Hennessy’s bar, beside Paddy O’s on Union Street, around 10 p.m. and was reported missing. She was later found in the Charlestown apartment of Victor Pena, who is charged with kidnapping and aggravated rape.
On Feb. 24, 2019, Dorchester native Jassy Correia was kidnapped and killed after celebrating her 23rd birthday at Venu, a Theatre District nightclub, and then getting into a man’s car. Louis D. Coleman III was charged in the Correia case with a single federal count of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a possible death penalty.
Following those abductions, public officials asked the public to exercise caution when heading home from a night out — to keep an eye on friends and be careful getting into unfamiliar cars. Boston police Commissioner William G. Gross called a meeting of alcohol license holders to discuss concerns about public safety.
Then, on Dec. 7, Alvin R. Campbell Jr., the brother of Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, allegedly posed as a ride service driver and kidnapped a woman leaving The Harp, near TD Garden, then drove her to Cumberland, R.I., and raped her. Campbell was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail last month after his arraignment on kidnapping and rape charges in Boston Municipal Court.
And one week ago, Dorchester resident Tony A. Santos, 31, allegedly offered a woman a ride home from another birthday celebration at Venu, but then grabbed her inside the car and told her, “You’re coming with me.” Santos was arraigned Monday on charges including attempted kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and held on $7,500 cash bail.
Inside Paddy O’s on Sunday afternoon, patrons were alarmed but not surprised to learn of the incident about 12 hours earlier. Such abductions are frightening, they said, but no longer shocking after years of reports about assaults by ride-hail drivers and men impersonating drivers.
Amy Ireland, 49, who was visiting Boston on vacation from Baltimore, said she always tells her 22-year-old daughter, “Make sure you’re getting in the right car with the right person — especially if she’s by herself. You hear about that more and more these days, and it’s scary because you don’t know.”
“You have to be street smart,” said Ed Reardon, 57, of Gloucester. “And if you’re drinking and you get into a car when you don’t know what you’re doing — it could be the last car you’re getting into.”
His wife, Jenn Reardon, 46, said, “It’s really unfortunate that that’s what the world is today, that you do have to constantly be aware of what’s going on around you.”
She added she never goes out drinking without her husband.
“I’m too afraid. I think I know too much of what goes on in the world,” she said.
In the wake of last winter’s abductions, city officials released a 33-page guide in December that contains new safety recommendations for bars, nightclubs, and their patrons.
On Sunday, Boston police posted to the department’s website a list of guidelines for using ride-hail vehicles safety. The tips include staying inside while requesting a ride, ensuring that you’re climbing into the right vehicle, and sharing trip details from the ride-hail app with a friend or relative who can track the trip.