A 45-year-old Uber driver from Kalamazoo is suspected of killing six people and wounding two others in a series of apparently random shootings Saturday night in Michigan, police say.
The suspect, identified as Jason Dalton, was arrested early Sunday morning, about six hours after the first shooting was reported and two hours after the final shooting, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a press conference. He was taken into custody following a traffic stop without incident and is being questioned, police say.
“These are random murders,” Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas told reporters.
Dalton was charged Monday with six counts of murder. He appeared in court for the first time and was held without bail. He declined to address the court, saying he’s been advised to remain silent.
Police say Dalton confessed when interviewed after his arrest, telling investigators he “took people’s lives.”
The shootings occurred in three locations, first at an apartment complex where a woman survived the shooting, then at a car dealership where a man and his son were killed and finally at a Cracker Barrel restaurant where four women were killed and a teen girl critically wounded.
The victims killed at a Kalamazoo car dealership, the second shooting scene, have been identified as father and son Richard and Tyler Smith, of Mattawan, Michigan. Tyler Smith is a high school senior. The Cracker Barrel victims, all from Michigan, have been identified as: Mary Lou Nye, 63, of Baroda; Mary Jo Nye, 60, of Battle Creek; Dorothy Brown, 74, of Battle Creek; and Dorothy Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek. See photos of the victims and read more about them here.
Here’s what we do know about Dalton and the shooting:
1. Uber Customers Say He Picked Them Up Between the Shootings, Police SayJason Dalton was an Uber driver, police tell WOOD-TV. He took customers in between the shootings, according to police.
Investigators are looking into whether Dalton dropped off a group of people at a Fairfield Inn next to a Cracker Barrel restaurant just moments before opening fire on two vehicles, killing four people.
The fiancee of one of his last riders posted on Facebook Saturday about a harrowing experience with Dalton. She posted it at about 5:30 p.m., not long before the first shooting at about 6 p.m.:Other riders also posted screenshots showing Dalton was their driver:
Uber confirmed Dalton was a driver and passed a background check.
“We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We are reaching out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can,” Uber’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement.
County Prosecutor Jeff Getting confirmed to WOOD-TV that they are investigating the Facebook post.
2. Neigbors Say Dalton Is a Father & Member of a ‘Typical American Family’ Who ‘Likes Guns’
Dalton is married with two children, according to his Facebook page. Sally Pardo, his neighbor, told CNN the Daltons are a “typical American family.”
“This seems so out of sorts for him,” her husband, Gary Pardo, added. “I know he liked guns.”
Another neighbor told WWMT-TV that Dalton was acting paranoid recently and would randomly shoot off his guns.
On his Facebook page, Dalton lists his employer as Progressive Insurance, but it’s not clear if he was still working there.
He says on his Facebook page he attended Comstock High School in Kalamazoo.
“This is your worst nightmare, where you have somebody just driving around, randomly killing people,” Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas told WWMT. “There’s usually a rhyme or reason to it. In this particular case, we’re not finding that. Hopefully when we interview the individual he’ll disclose that to us.”
3. He Was ‘Driving Around & ‘Shooting to Death Innocent People at Random,’ Police Say
Police said the suspect, Jason Dalton, was driving around Kalamazoo and shooting people at each of the scenes, the Associated Press reports.
“It appears we have someone driving around and doing nothing but shooting to death innocent people at random,” Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas told reporters from the Cracker Barrel shooting scene.
A motive for the shootings is not yet known. There is no apparent connection between the victims and the locations where the shootings occurred.
According to WOOD-TV, the shootings happened in three locations in Kalamazoo: a car dealership, a Cracker Barrel restaurant and an apartment complex.
The shootings occurred over several hours. The first shooting was reported at about 6 p.m. at a townhouse complex on Meadows Boulevard, MLive.com reports. At about 10 p.m., a shooting was reported at the Seelye Kia car dealership on Stadium Drive. Then at 10:30 p.m., a shooting was reported at the Crack Barrel Restaurant in Oshtemo Township.
A woman was shot multiple times in the parking lot of an apartment complex, but survived. She has been hospitalized with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries. The victim told police she did not know the suspect.
Police say a father and his son, Richard and Tyler Smith, were killed at the car dealership, WOOD-TV reports. A woman was inside the car when the shooting occurred, but the gunman apparently did not see her, WWMT-TV reports.
Four of the victims were killed at the restaurant and another, a 14-year-old girl, was severely wounded.
The victims were all shot in or near vehicles.
4. He Does Not Have a Criminal Record Police Are Aware Of
Authorities said at a press conference that they are not aware of any previous criminal record for Jason Dalton.
It is not known if he had a history of mental illness.
Police served a search warrant early Sunday morning at Dalton’s Kalamazoo home, WWMT reports.
Police said they do not know if the gun used in the shootings, allegedly by Jason Dalton, was owned legally by him. It is also not yet known if he had a permit to carry a gun.
The weapon has been recovered by police.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the gun used in the killings was a semi-automatic handgun. He said other evidence was recovered in Dalton’s home and car, but did not provide specific details about it.
5. He Was Stopped by Police Without a ‘Confrontation’ After Leaving a Bar Parking Lot
Dalton was arrested at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday after a traffic stop in downtown Kalamazoo. His car was spotted by an officer who recognized it from descriptions obtained from surveillance video.
Police said he was seen leaving a Kalamazoo bar’s parking, but he did not go into the bar. He was “even tempered” when he was taken into custody, the county prosecutor said Sunday.
Dalton is being questioned at police headquarters. He is expected to be charged and then arraigned Monday afternoon.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said on Facebook:
Please be cautious and advise us if you know or have seen the suspect in this situation where 6 people have been killed throughout Kalamazoo County. Looking for a White male in his 50’s, believed to be driving a dark colored Chevy HHR, chrome wheels and mirrors. Vehicle may have some damage. Leads are currently and will continue to be followed.
The blue Chevrolet is similar to the one pictured in the tweet above.
“The loss the community has suffered, the loss that the community will continue to suffer – you can’t begin to put that into words,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a press conference. “There’s this sense of loss, this anger, fear, and then you put on top of that – how do you tell the families of these victims they weren’t targeted for any reason other than they were there to be targeted? They were shot multiple times, multiple, I mean nine, 10, 11 shell casings at these scenes. This is awful.”Getting said he believes police stopped further killings by taking Jason Dalton into custody when they did.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the police work in this situation saved lives,” Getting said at a press conference. “No question.”
Getting also praised local businesses, including the car dealership, for quickly providing surveillance footage to investigators, which allowed them to identify the vehicle the suspect in the shootings was driving.
Police said they believe Dalton is the only suspect in the shooting and Getting said he does not expect any other person to be charged at this point.
Kalamazoo is in southwestern Michigan. The city is home to about 75,000 people. There were seven homicides in the county in 2014.