An Uber driver charged with fatally shooting a drunken passenger during a rough ride in Denver was found not guilty Thursday after convincing a jury he acted in self-defense.
Relatives of Michael Hancock, cried, hugged and rejoiced when the verdict came back absolving the 31-year-old in the killing of passenger Hyun Soo Kim, FOX 31 reported. A judge ordered Hancock released on Thursday afternoon.
“Like God just gave me a big ol’ hug,” he said after walking free. “Thank you.”
Hancock said Kim, 45, made unwanted sexual advances toward him, then attacked him when he threatened to pull over during the June 2018 ride. He said the unruly passenger socked him in the face and proceeded to grab for the steering wheel as they sped along Interstate 25.
The husband and father of two, who drove for the ride-sharing company as a means to supplement his income, faced a first-degree murder charge for killing Kim, who the defense said grew increasingly violent when the driver rejected his advances, at one point grabbing Hancock by his dreads.
Once Hancock’s car came to stop, prosecutors said the driver walked around to the front passenger side where Kim was seated and fired his semi-automatic handgun 10 times, striking the victim at least six times.
Many of the shots entered Kim from behind, prosecutors said, further indicating Hancock’s guilt.
Authorities also pointed to a knife Hancock’s reportedly kept under the seat, arguing the Denver man tried to concoct a phony self-defense claim by placing the knife in Kim’s hand to get his fingerprints on it. Hancock acknowledged placing the weapon in Kim’s hand, but only to see if he was still alive.
The passenger’s initial destination was just Two miles from the karaoke bar where Hancock had picked him up. However, Uber records show that by the time the shooting occurred Hancock’s car had traveled nearly 70 miles from where Kim had been retrieved, FOX 31 reported.
Hancock’s defense attorney said his client demanded that Kim enter a new address into the Uber app. In contrast, prosecutors said it was possible Kim did not get out at his original destination because he’d passed out and that Hancock had continued driving to up the fare.
Despite the incriminating evidence, jurors declined to convict the Denver man and were not given the option to convict him on lesser charges, the Denver Post reported.