Alleged Uber driver arrested in Conyers on drug charges

CONYERS - An Oxford man claiming to be a driver for Uber and Lyft is facing numerous charges after he was found to be allegedly driving under the influence of drugs, and a variety of drugs was allegedly found in his vehicle.

According to reports from the Conyers Police Department, about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 30, communications received a call about a reckless driver possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The caller, an off-duty Gwinnett County Police officer, said the driver was traveling east on Interstate 20 near Ga. Highway 138. The officer gave a tag number and described the vehicle as a white passenger car with front end and rear end damage.

The Gwinnett officer continued to follow the vehicle while Conyers officers were en route. The car exited at Salem Road and turned left. The Gwinnett officer lost sight of the vehicle on Sigman Road when it turned onto Gees Mill Business Parkway. Multiple Conyers officers began searching for the car and it was found in the parking lot of a closed business near the intersection of Gees Mill Road and Gees Mill Business Parkway, with the driver standing nearby.

A Conyers officer approached the driver, identified as Travis Malone Howell, 32, of Oxford. The officer stated in his report that he didn’t smell any odor of an alcoholic beverage on Howell, but said that something was wrong with one of his eyes and he had a knot on his forehead above that eye. When the officer shined his flashlight on Howell’s eyes, he noticed very little dilation in his pupils, which the officer stated is often associated with the ingestion of an illegal narcotic.

Howell told the officer he was a driver for Uber and Lyft and that he was tired and had pulled into the parking lot to rest. When the officer asked him about the bump on his head, Howell said he had hit it on something a few days ago.

There was damage to the front end of the vehicle, which Howell said had occurred when he hit a deer. There was also damage to the rear end, which he attributed to someone rear ending him. The officer noted in his report that the damage was consistent with the description the Gwinnett officer had given, and that the tag number also matched.

While one officer was speaking with Howell, another looked in the driver’s side window of the car and noticed a firearm on the driver’s side floor board in plain sight. She asked Howell if she could enter the vehicle to retrieve the gun, and he reportedly gave permission. Another officer opened the passenger side door to assist, and when they had retrieved the weapon, both officers stated they smelled the odor of raw marijuana in the vehicle.

The first officer asked Howell about the smell and he allegedly said he had picked up a fare earlier in the night and the man had started smoking marijuana in his vehicle, so he immediately made the man get out and that there were no illegal narcotics in his car.

The officer explained to Howell that there had been another driver on the interstate who had seen him driving erratically and had continued to follow him when he exited the interstate. Howell allegedly stated he wondered why that car had been following him.

Due to the other two officers noticing the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle, they began to search it. Inside the center console, they found two white pills believed to be Xanax. They also found a tan, rock-like substance believed to be heroin wrapped up in tinfoil. Two more pills of different colors were also found wrapped in tinfoil. It is believed they were Ecstasy.

The officers did not find any suspected marijuana in the passenger compartment of the car, but when they searched the trunk, they found a small, clear bag of marijuana inside a backpack in the trunk.

Howell was arrested and taken into custody. He refused to have his blood tested, so officers completed a search warrant for his blood and had a judge sign it. Howell was transported to Rockdale Medical Center to have his blood drawn, then transported to the Rockdale County Jail.

Howell has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs, driving under the influence of drugs less safe, possession of Xanax, possession of heroin, possession of marijuana less than an ounce, possession of Ecstasy, possession of a firearm during the commission of crimes, and failure to maintain lane.

Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.