Man Charged With Attacking, Carjacking Lyft Driver After Leaving Bar in Garden Grove

A Garden Grove man was charged Wednesday with assaulting and dragging a Lyft driver from his vehicle, then deserting the man as he fled in his car, prosecutors said.

Luis Alberto Zaragoza, 27, was arrested in connection with the incident Monday, more than three months after it took place March 10, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Zaragoza allegedly hailed a ride from a bar in Garden Grove using the Lyft app early that morning. When the car arrived just before 2 a.m., the defendant got in and told the driver to take him to a McDonald’s drive-thru, officials said.

During the trip, Zaragoza is accused of shouting obscenities at the driver, then proceeding to punch and kick him in the head. He then forcibly pulled the man from his own vehicle and took off, according to the DA’s office.

Officials did not say if the two made it to the fast-food spot, or where exactly the victim was left on the side of the road.

It’s not the first time a Lyft driver has been violently carjacked in the Southland. Also in March, three men used the ride-hailing app to summon a driver and were inside the man’s car for an hour before stealing the vehicle at gunpoint in South Pasadena, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Upon learning of the Garden Grove incident, Lyft immediately deactivated Zaragoza’s account, and the company has been in contact with the driver as well as law enforcement, Alexandra LaManna, a communications manager at Lyft, said in an email.

LaManna did not respond to a question about how the company suggests drivers protect themselves against attacks, but she did say Lyft takes driver safety “incredibly seriously.”

It’s unclear what led police to identify and arrest Zaragoza as a suspect in the case.

He now faces three felony counts: carjacking, first-degree robbery and assault. Prosecutors are also seeking a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

If convicted as charged, the defendant could be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years and four months in state prison.

He was scheduled to appear in court on June 21 for a pre-trial hearing.