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Lyft driver says passenger choked him with his own seatbelt in Texas: 'He was trying to kill me'

A Lyft driver was choked with his own seatbelt by a passenger as he was taking them to their destination. The attacker was arrested for Aggravated Assault.

A Lyft driver was attacked by a passenger who choked him with his own seatbelt as he was taking the assailant to their destination in Harris County, Texas.

Driver Kehinde Ayoola said he may never again work ride-share or feel comfortable driving at all after he was choked by a passenger while driving down the highway. He said he hopes this incident will lead the company to make policy changes to protect other drivers.

"He was trying to kill me," Ayoola told Fox 26.

"I thought maybe 'I'm dying.' I said 'Ok, let me just fight for my life,'" he added.

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Ramiro Vella is charged with Aggravated Assault in connection with the attack.

When Ayoola arrived at a hospital to pick up Vella for what Ayoola says he believes was a hospital-ordered ride, the driver observed the man standing with three hospital workers as he was fidgeting and behaving oddly.

"He was moving all around, looking, looking as if he was looking for something. So, I said 'Is this guy ok?' The security guard said yes," Ayoola recalled.

Shortly after the passenger entered his car, he started talking to himself before beating his chest, Ayoola said.

Vella at one point slid over in the backseat to the seat behind Ayoola.

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"So, I said 'Hey, are you ok?' and he took my seatbelt and wrapped it around my neck, choking me," Ayoola said.

Ayoola said he was driving 65 miles per hour on Highway 290 when Vella was choking him so hard that his nose and eyes began to run. Ayoola then tried putting his fingers between his neck and the seatbelt.

"When I was trying, my shoulder was really hurt and my leg, when I was steering with my leg, and I was fighting for my life," Ayoola said, noting that he was able to unfasten his seatbelt.

Vella then used his arm to put Ayoola in a chokehold.

Ayoola pulled his car over to the side of the road, and Vella kicked the back window until the frame popped out. Vella then kicked a dent into the back of the vehicle and opened the trunk. Ayoola said he believes his passenger was searching for a weapon.

Investigators said Vella then ran to a house and began yelling and trying to enter. The homeowner called 911 and Vella was arrested.

"I just thank God. It's a miracle from God that I am alive," Ayoola said. "It was really scary, really scary." 

Ayoola said he hopes ride-share services will closely review this incident and make some policy changes, particularly when drivers are sent to pick up a "hospital-ordered" passenger.

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