When Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene of the alleged crime, Travis Schriever Smith, a 36-year-old resident of Rockne Lane in Palm Coast, was on the ground, on top of a 47-year-old man and Lyft driver. A deputy told him to desist. He wouldn’t. The deputy took out his Taser and pointed its laser-red dot at Smith.
“You ready for him?” Smith told the deputy, referring to the Lyft driver, before submitting to handcuffs. He would soon be arrested and charged with battery and felony child abuse. He’d been upset by a newly installed transparent partition separating the driver’s compartment from the back seat.
According to the driver’s account to deputies, the driver was providing a ride to Smith and another man and his 7-year-old child. They had started in Flagler Beach and were headed to Smith’s home in the R-Section. As the man drove, Smith “asked him about the partition in the vehicle, and became upset, attacking him by grabbing him in a chokehold,” according to Smith’s arrest report.
The plastic shields have been standard in taxis in many areas of the country for years. But Lyft a few weeks ago instructed its drivers on how to install partitions in cars as safety measures to limit the spread of covid-19 , the respiratory illness that’s killed more than 7,000 Floridians and 11 Flagler County residents so far. The drivers must pay for the partitions through Lyft’s store.
Lyft also requires its drivers and passengers to wear face masks, as the driver did (though the riders did not). “Earlier this month, Lyft began providing partitions to frequent drivers, as well as those in our Express Drive rental program,” Lyft states in an explanatory page about the partitions, with a video on how to install them. The partitions are at face level and don’t block out sounds.
“Our community is counting on us to put their health and safety first,” Angie Westbrock, a company vice president who heads Lyft’s covid-19 Response Task Force, is quoted as saying in the explanatory page. “By prioritizing the wellbeing of our drivers, our entire community gains extra peace of mind. We’re setting the bar for health and safety in rideshare and will continue to expand our programs and products to continue raising that bar.”
The Lyft driver was not using a specifically Lyft-issued separator, but as he described it in footage from his own dashcam, he acquired the materials from eBay and installed them. The separator looked more filmy than plexiglass.
The driver provided deputies video of the confrontation from an interior-facing dash cam. (See the video below.)
In the footage, Smith is sitting back in the backseat, the driver is driving. Then Smith starts asking the driver about the partition, repeatedly questioning him about how he installed it. Smith describes seeing similar set-ups, then, for no particular reason, calls the driver a liar, and again questions him about the partition: “How did you get this?”
The driver turns on an inside light and wonders about a noise he’s hearing, asking if a back door had been opened. Smith covers up the inside light with his hand.
They ride on, the men in the backseat exchange a few unintelligible words, then suddenly Smith is seen ripping the partition off, unprovoked, and grabbing the driver around the throat. The other man in the backseat appeared to know what was coming and opens the door to get out with his son, who starts crying.
According to his arrest report, Smith ripped the partition down and started to attack the Palm Coast-based driver on the right side of his face with a closed fist. The vehicle swerved as Smith placed the driver in a chokehold, causing the vehicle almost to crash and go across the median on belle Terre Parkway. At that point both Smith and the driver got out and continued fighting, according to the report–and Smith allegedly spat on the driver. (A deputy observed remnants of spit under the driver’s eye.)
The video shows Smith briefly slapping or flailing at the driver once outside, then running off. The driver checks the car, tells someone to “call the cops,” as vehicles are stopped on Belle Terre. The last frame shows Smith again approaching the driver on the road.
The video “correlated with all events that he stated to me,” the deputy’s report indicates, referring to the driver, who had injuries to the right side of his forehead.
Smith gave deputies a different account. He said the driver had been driving recklessly, blowing through red lights. He felt his life was in danger, “so he attempted to subdue him after [the driver] ripped down the partition and was being verbally abusive to” Smith. But a deputy’s review of the video footage concluded that Smith, who was drunk, “was being dishonest.”
The 7 year old and his father were not involved in the incident, other than the father–in front of his child and loud enough to be recorded by the video–goads Smith on, using an expletive against the driver. The child was visibly upset and crying when deputies were on the scene, saying, “I just want to go to sleep.” Because of the child’s presence in the car and the child’s endangerment, Smith was charged with child abuse, a third-degree felony.
Father and child were visiting Smith from Maine. Since Smith was being taken to jail, a deputy asked Smith to give the father and his child access to Smith’s home. “Go fuck yourselves,” Smith replied, refusing to provide a key. A deputy took the father and his child to the Hampton Inn. Smith was booked at the jail on a misdemeanor battery charge and the child abuse charge, and was released on $7,500 bond hours later.