Evidence against an Uber driver charged with shooting a passenger shows the driver was outside the car when he fired a handgun 10 times, striking the passenger inside six times, prosecutors said Friday.
Denver Judge Shelley Gilman ruled that there was enough evidence for 29-year-old Michael Hancock to stand trial for the June death of 45-year-old Hyun Kim after Friday’s hearing, which provided the clearest glimpse yet of why prosecutors charged Hancock with first-degree murder.
His family has said that Hancock was defending himself after being attacked, but he was charged with murder within days of the shooting.
Denver prosecutor Phil Reinert said an autopsy found most of Kim’s gunshot wounds struck the back of his body and police found all 10 bullet casings outside the car, near the median separating the southbound and northbound lanes.
“Michael Hancock made 10 choices — each shot — to kill Mr. Kim,” Reinert argued.
According to police, Kim used the Uber app to order a ride early on the morning of June 1. Kim’s initial destination was an address less than a mile from where Hancock picked Kim up, Denver Police Detective Eric Bueno said.
Bueno said surveillance video showed Hancock’s car arriving there but Kim did not get out of the car. Records provided by Uber showed that the car traveled about 70 miles (113 kilometers) from where Hancock picked up Kim by the time it crashed in the interstate’s southbound lanes after 2 a.m., he said.
It’s not clear why Kim did not get out at his originally planned destination, Reinert acknowledged later in the hearing.
Hancock has not formally entered a plea yet. His attorneys noted that the judge could not consider an affirmative defense, such as self-defense, during Friday’s hearing when evaluating whether the evidence was enough for trial.
They suggested that, at most, Hancock should face a second-degree murder charge because he did not intend to kill Kim.
They also highlighted Hancock flagging down a passing driver and asking that he call 911. Hancock also told the driver that Kim hit him in the face as the car was traveling 70 mph (113 kph) on the interstate.
Police officers and detectives said Hancock repeatedly asked 911 dispatchers to send an ambulance for Kim, cooperated with officers who arrived at the scene and legally purchased the gun.
“These are all actions consistent with someone being attacked as he’s driving down the highway,” defense attorney Luke Levulis said.
Police photographs taken after the shooting showed swelling above Hancock’s eyebrow, and autopsy photos showed bruises on Kim’s right hand.
Friday’s testimony also revealed that a woman called police the afternoon of the shooting claiming to have information about the incident.
She told Bueno that she had been driving northbound early that morning and saw a passenger in a car headed south punch the driver in the face. She did not testify on Friday, and it’s not clear if she is cooperating with police.
Hancock was permitted to carry concealed under Colorado law. One police officer testified that Hancock had the gun in a secure holster, worn under his pants, when investigators arrived in response to a 911 call.
Uber representatives, though, have said company policy bars riders and drivers from carrying firearms except in states that expressly prohibit companies from banning guns.
Hancock remains in jail. He is due back in court Nov. 9.