Police: Uber driver sought in sexual assault

Gainesville police searching for 66-year-old Edwin Ricci

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Police are searching for an Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting a woman he was driving, the Gainesville Police Department announced Thursday. 

On Wednesday, police said, a woman in her 20s hailed a ride from Uber and was assigned driver Edwin Ricci. 

According to police, the woman was on FaceTime with a friend when she noticed Ricci was driving the wrong way down a dead-end street. When she alerted him, he said, “We are just going for a little ride,” police said.

"If you're in a city you're familiar with, you know the route and you know you're not going into the right direction, let the driver know," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. 

The woman told him to turn around, police said, but he did not do so until he noticed that she was on a FaceTime call.

Ricci then asked if her boyfriend would be jealous and stroked her hair, police said. The woman pulled away and Ricci shoved his hand down her jacket, grabbing her breast over her shirt, police said.

That's when the woman smacked his arm away, got out of the car and ran.

Ricci drove away and has not been located, police said. He is believed to be driving a 2008 Honda Odyssey van with Florida tag 876YHP.

Smith said it's important to try to get the license plate number of the driver.

"When the driver gets there, look at the license plate. Write it down or try to remember the license plate," he said. "Also, look at the driver's information. It should be posted somewhere and make sure that matches up with the info you have on your app."

Officers also remind people using ride-booking services to always be on guard, cautious and aware that they're getting into a vehicle with someone they don't know. 

"Following your intuition," Smith said. "If things don't seem right, get away from the situation."

When using ride-hailing services, Smith also advised that people sit in the back seat -- so they have two ways to get out of the car -- and always let someone know where they're going. 

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Police Department at 955-1818. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 352-372-STOP.