Auburn students react to sexual assault near campus

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 11:35 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WTVM) - An Opelika rideshare driver is now behind bars accused of sexually assaulting a passenger that he picked up in downtown Auburn.

Auburn police say during the transport the driver assaulted the victim. Tonight he’s charged with rape, sodomy and sexual abuse.

On Sunday police say 46-year-old Theodore Leroy Halls Jr. was working as a driver for a rideshare service. According to police, Halls picked up a rider in downtown Auburn. However, things took a turn for the worse.

Police say during the trip, the driver sexually assaulted the rider near the 700 block of Aspen Heights Lane, where we were told a lot of college students live.

“That’s definitely very scary, especially since I do use that,” said Auburn student Maggie Flaherty. “It honestly could’ve happened to me. So it definitely is unnerving to hear that.”

Since then, Halls has been charged with first degree rape, sodomy and sexual abuse. He’s been transported to the Lee County jail and held on a $150,000 bond.

Many students on campus say they often take Lyfts and Ubers, but ensure they take extra precautions before getting in the car.

“I’ll make sure they ask for their name and I watch their reaction to that,” said upcoming Auburn medical student Jacob Mcclean. “If they seem surprised that I call them by the name on their Uber or not responsive to it or something like that, obviously that’s a red flag.”

Mcclean says he also checks to ensure child restraint locks are not enabled. Other students who don’t use ride services even ensure their friends are safe before hopping in any car.

“In case they’re taking an Uber or a Lyft, I text them while they’re in the car ride and I make them send me their location,” said Auburn student Sevastian Vallecilla.

Uber has also posted tips including requesting rides inside, checking license plates, riding in the backseat in more. To ensure rider safety, Lyft even sends users messages if they’ve been parked too long.

Auburn police have not specified which rideshare service the suspect worked for.

This case is still under investigation and we expect to get more information from police in the days ahead.

Stay with News Leader 9 for any updates.

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