Before he was accused of killing one of his Uber Eats customers this past weekend, Robert Bivines had been arrested on aggravated assault charges in DeKalb County, according to jail records.
But the nearly decade-old offense wouldn’t have been flagged by Uber’s driver pre-screening process because it only tracks criminal records as far back as seven years, according to the company’s website.
Potential employees are subject to a driving history screening, and, if cleared, undergo a criminal background check in national, state and local databases, according to the Uber website.
The company said Bivines passed a background check and had been with the delivery company for only a week before the deadly shooting.
“We are shocked and saddened by this senseless act of violence and our hearts go out to (Ryan Thornton’s) friends and family,” Uber Eats said in a statement. “We have been working with the Atlanta Police Department, and the driver can no longer access the app.”
Details of the 2009 assault case were not immediately available Monday, but Bivines pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of battery in May 2010, according to court records.
He was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to have no contact with his victim. Bivines was also banned from the five-county metropolitan area. Online court records do not indicate how long the ban was enforced.
Bivines, 36, turned himself in Monday afternoon, two days after Atlanta police say he shot and killed Thornton, a recent Morehouse College graduate, after delivering food to the 30-year-old’s Pharr Court South condominium. The entire shooting was caught on surveillance video.
About 10:45 p.m. Saturday, Thornton placed an order with Tin Lizzy’s on Piedmont Road through the Uber Eats app, according to an Atlanta police report. Bivines was listed as the delivery driver.
“The victim went down to meet the driver, received his order and began walking away from the vehicle,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said in a statement. “As the victim was walking away, it appears words may have been exchanged between he and the delivery driver.”
Thornton went back to Bivines’ car and that’s when things turned deadly.
Atlanta police said four shots were fired through the passenger-side window. Bullets landed in Thornton’s torso.
As Thornton fell to the ground, Bivines drove away in his white Volkswagen, police said.
Thornton called his girlfriend, who administered aid. He was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Thornton graduated from Morehouse in May 2017 with a political science degree and had recently started a new job, a spokeswoman for the school, D. Aileen Dodd, said in a statement. While there, he worked closely with those in the admission’s office, who described him as “friendly, hard-working and determined to become a Morehouse Man.”
Morehouse President David A. Thomas said the college “stands at the ready to support Thornton’s family during this difficult time.”
“Ryan was an ambitious student with so much promise. He was well-respected by his peers and highly regarded by his professors,” Thomas said. “We at Morehouse College will keep Ryan's family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Bivines’ attorney, Jackie Patterson, said the surveillance video doesn’t tell the full story.
Patterson told Channel 2 Action News that Thornton — upset about the delivery time — threatened his client and motioned toward his pockets: “My client had no choice but to defend himself.”
Bivines is due in court at 11 a.m. Tuesday.