Jason Dalton was an Uber driver who went on a killing spree in February, 2016, shooting eight people and killing six at three separate locations.
Dalton is nearing 50 years old in a Michigan state prison, where he is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. ABC 20/20 is revisiting the Kalamazoo shooting rampage on its encore episode, “The Deadly Ride,” which airs at 9 p.m. EST.
Dalton claimed “his body had been taken over” by the Uber app, according to a motion filed in his case.
“I just tapped it and then there was like a devil head that popped up,” Dalton told investigators in interview tapes obtained by ABC News. “It was some sort of like horned, horned head like a cow head or something. … I pressed that button and that’s where all the problems went after that.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Jason Dalton Is Serving A Life Sentence Under Close Security in Manistee, Michigan for Killing 6 in a Shooting Spree
Jason Brian Dalton is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan. Dalton is 49 years old. Dalton is under security Level 4, categorized as “close security,” according to his prison records from the Michigan Department of Corrections.
The security levels range from 1 to 5, with Level 5 being maximum security and Level 1 being minimum security, according to Capital News Service. Oaks Correctional Facility has three Level 4 units, two of which are set up as an “alternative to segregation,” according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. The 262,673-square-foot prison includes 11 buildings, seven which house prisoners. There are five general population units and one segregation unit.
Dalton was sentenced to life in prison for six counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty January 7, 2016, to first-degree murder in the February 20, 2016 shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dalton killed six people that evening at three locations: an apartment complex, a car dealership, and a restaurant.
Dalton shot Tiana Carruthers, 25, in the parking lot of the Meadows town home complex just before 6 p.m. that night. She survived the shooting. About four hours later, Dalton shot and killed father and son Rich, 53, and Tyler Smith, 17, in the parking lot of Seelye Kia on Stadium Drive. He then shot four women and a 14-year-old girl in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda; Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy “Judy” Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, all of Battle Creek, were all killed and the teen girl, Abigail Kopf, was critically injured but survived. Read his victims’ stories here.
Dalton pleaded guilty in a surprise twist in the case and against his attorney’s advice, after families of the victims waited for more than two years as his case went through appellate courts, according to MLive. Dalton’s lawyers filed a motion to suppress his statements to police, which was granted after a judge ordered his confession could not be used at trial, according to WWMT. You can read the motion in full here.
In addition to pleading guilty to six counts of first-degree murder, Dalton also pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, which each carried a sentence of 18 years and nine months to 40 years, and eight felony firearms charges, which each carried a two-year prison sentence, according to his prison records.
Uber Driver Jason Dalton’s Shooting Rampage Prompted the Company to Launch New Safety Features
Uber faced criticism after the shooting rampage by its driver, both for hiring Dalton in the first place and for failing to ground Dalton after one of his passengers called 911 hours before the first shot was fired. A passenger, Matt Mellen, called 911 five hours before the first victim was killed to report Dalton for driving so erratically that he jumped out of Dalton’s car.
“We got about a mile from my house, and he got a telephone call. After that call, he started driving erratically, running stop signs,” Mellen told WWMT. “We were kind of driving through medians, driving through the lawn speeding along and then finally, once he came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away.”
An Uber spokesperson told The Guardian at the time that there was no way a report of an erratic driver would indicate that a deadly rampage was about to take place.
“He said the gentleman was driving erratically,” the spokesperson said. “Remember we’re doing 3 million rides a day. How do you prioritize that feedback and how do you think about it?”
The spokesperson went onto say that calls indicating violence are given priority and result in the driver’s immediate suspension.
“Anything that has a whiff of violence, ‘the driver assaulted me,’ we suspend the person immediately, but where it’s something like bad driving …Because we get a lot of people saying bad driving and there’s two sides to that and sometimes, it’s not fair to deactivate them or not give them a warning,” the spokesperson said.
Uber launched additional safety measures in April 2018, and updated some of its existing features. The features included adding up to five trusted contacts and encouraging a rider to share their trip with those contacts, adding an emergency button that would connect a person directly with 911 through the app, 911 integration, and strengthening its driver screenings. You can read more about the safety updates here.