ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a driver in the shooting death of an Uber passenger who authorities say was killed along the side of an Albuquerque highway after a dispute over vomit in the vehicle.
A Bernalillo County prosecutor charged Clayton Benedict, 32, with second-degree murder on Monday — more than three months after the shooting death of 27-year-old James Porter. A spokesman said prosecutors had reviewed “a volume of videos and documents” before filing charges.
Benedict would face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. If convicted on a lesser, alternative count of manslaughter involving a firearm, he could face up to seven years in prison. A voicemail left at the public defenders’ office seeking comment on Benedict’s behalf was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Benedict had just picked up Porter and another man at a bar in the early evening of March 17 and was driving on Interstate 25 when he pulled over because Porter’s friend had thrown up in the backseat, according to authorities.
An argument over a cleanup fee escalated on the shoulder of the highway, with Benedict telling police earlier this year that he pulled out a handgun after Porter had slammed his car door, yelled at him, took his shoes off and threw his sunglasses at him.
Benedict said he opened fire when Porter walked toward the driver’s side of his car and heard him threaten to run him over.
A toxicology report last month showed Porter had traces of the drug ecstasy and high levels of alcohol in his system when he was killed, which occurred on St. Patrick’s Day when many revelers crowd into bars to celebrate.
His family has sued Uber saying the company was negligent in its supervision of Benedict.
The ride-sharing giant’s policies prohibit the presence of weapons inside vehicles when they are used for transporting clients.
A preliminary hearing for Benedict has not been scheduled.
Last year, an Uber driver in Denver was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a passenger on a Colorado highway..