Clare Dunn Emotionally Recounts Night She Was Assaulted by Her Lyft Driver: 'This Has Been Hell'
Editor's Note: This story includes graphic details and a photo of physical assault.
After spending most of the pandemic at her farm in Colorado, Clare Dunn was gearing herself up for her first trip back to Nashville for work. While in Music City, she would spend time in the studio writing some of the songs that would ultimately make their way onto her upcoming EP In This Kind of Light for the first time. But the country music singer/songwriter was also looking forward to an evening out with her girlfriends — a night that ended in a way she never expected.
According to an incident report obtained by PEOPLE, Dunn was assaulted during the early morning hours of June 26 at the hands of her Lyft driver, someone she remembers as a "6'2"-6'3" 250 lb. man."
"I had that intuition that something was wrong, and I ignored it," Dunn, 34, tells PEOPLE exclusively in her first interview about the assault that left her bloody and bruised.
The night started out rather innocently, as Dunn and a couple of friends went out for a night on the town. Somewhere around midnight, Dunn and a close friend ordered a Lyft to drive them home. Soon after the driver dropped off Dunn's friend safely, they began the 10-mile trip to Dunn's residence, with the singer requesting to take the "slower route" to avoid going on the highway.
But soon, it became evident the driver would not be following Dunn's advice.
"We were barreling towards the interstate and I spoke up and was like, 'Hey, that was my turn. Where are you going? You need to take the next right turn,'" remembers Dunn. She says the driver became increasingly agitated. "He was screaming at me. I couldn't really make it out — his English wasn't the best. And I just knew in that moment that I wasn't going to get on that interstate with him. I wasn't going to go quietly where he wanted to take me. And I think he realized maybe this girl was going to be more trouble than she's worth."
And while Dunn — best known for country songs such as "Move On," "Get Out" and "Tuxedo" — still doesn't know why the driver ultimately made the decision to pull the car over a mile away from her house, he eventually did. Yet her nightmare was just beginning.
"Before I could even get my shoes off or get my phone to try and call 911, he grabbed me by the collar, ripped me out of the backseat and slammed me face-first down into a ditch," Dunn remembers. "Somehow in the scuffle, I thought I called 911, but I didn't even get the number right. But it was a miracle. They called me back. And when I came to, I was screaming, and I saw headlights. He ended up just leaving me alone at that point and took off."
And then, so did Dunn. With her face bruised and bleeding as a result of her injuries, Dunn ran home while the circumstances of the evening played on a loop in her mind.
"The next morning, the friend I was in the car with was telling me, 'Oh my God, I had this feeling when I got out of that ride,'" says Dunn, who ended up going to the emergency room following the altercation. "She said, 'I so wanted to just tell you to get out.'"
Dunn then begins to cry.
"It makes me emotional, but she said, 'I wanted to tell you to get out and we'll get another ride, or you could just sleep on my couch,' and we both ignored it," says Dunn, who filed a police report shortly after the incident and has since identified the driver with the help of a detective. "As women, we sometimes do that but I think when we have those feelings, they are alarm bells. I remember telling myself that I was overthinking it and I just wanted to go home. That's all I remember thinking about it and just trying to tell myself it's fine. I blame myself."
Currently, there is a warrant out for the Lyft driver's arrest, and Dunn says she is confident that he will soon be caught. (Update Aug. 10: Albert Boakye was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with misdemeanor assault, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department confirms.)
"He's out on the street — is he doing this to someone else?" she wonders aloud. "Does he have a wife he's abusing? Does he have a girlfriend he's abusing like this? Because he obviously has no regard right now."
In a statement to PEOPLE, Lyft responds, "Safety is fundamental to Lyft. The behavior described is appalling, and we permanently removed the driver from the Lyft platform as soon as we learned of this incident. We've reached out to Ms. Dunn to offer our support and are assisting law enforcement with their investigation."
At this point, Dunn wants to leave people with some lessons she's since learned, including the importance of grabbing screenshots of a driver's information from rideshare apps and taking a picture of their license plate before getting into their car.
"This has been hell," says Dunn. "I don't want anyone else to go through it. Even if it just can keep one girl or one guy from going through this ... he knew what he was doing. He hit 'complete the ride' after it was done. I didn't take a screenshot of his license information during the ride. All of that goes away when a ride is completed. All I had was a little tiny profile picture and his first name. It's a slow process if you don't have all that info."
And as the physical pain begin to heal, Dunn says the trauma's mental anguish continues.
"I wake up a couple of times throughout the night thinking I heard something — like someone's at my back door," says Dunn, who released her new song "Holding Out for a Cowboy" last month and is now back in Colorado. "Even just in the past year, before this whole deal happened, it felt like the world was just such a crazy, scary place in general. So being here on the farm is definitely a safe place for me right now."
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