Uber User Describes Chilling Exchange With Suspect

Jason Dalton 'liked guns,' neighbors say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2016 4:03 AM CST
Updated Feb 22, 2016 6:31 AM CST
Motive a Mystery in Kalamazoo Rampage
This image provided by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office shows Jason Dalton of Kalamazoo County.   (Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office via AP)

More details have emerged about Kalamazoo mass shooting suspect Jason Dalton—but none explain what could have driven him to kill six people in a Saturday night rampage, apparently picking up fares as an Uber driver between murders. Neighbors in rural Michigan tell the Detroit Free Press that the 45-year-old is an insurance adjuster and "nice guy" who lives with his wife and two children, ages 15 and 10. Neighbors say he loved cars and worked part-time as a mechanic. They say he bought a gun after his tools were stolen. "We knew he had a gun. I think he had it just for protection. He wasn't a hunter or anything like that, but I know he liked guns," a neighbor says. Other developments:

  • Police say the death toll was thought to be seven until a 14-year-old girl who had been pronounced dead squeezed her mother's hand, MLive.com reports. The girl, who had been placed on life support for organ donation, is still in extremely critical condition, but authorities are hopeful. "The only word to describe it is wow," a Michigan State Police spokesman says. "It's absolutely a miracle that she's alive and we're definitely hopeful for her continued improvement."

  • There's nothing to connect the three groups of victims to each other or to Dalton, NBC News reports. Police say the first was a woman shot and injured outside an apartment building at 5:42pm. Four hours later, Richard Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler, were shot dead at a car dealership 15 miles away. Soon after, Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74, Barbara Hawthorne, 68, and Mary Lou Nye, 62, were shot dead in a Cracker Barrel parking lot and a 14-year-old girl was injured. They were on their way home from a play.
  • Dalton was arrested without incident early Sunday; he's expected to appear in court Monday, the AP reports. Authorities say a semi-automatic handgun was in his car and the killings had "no rhyme, no reason." He was in contact with at least one person during the rampage, but authorities do not expect to charge anybody else.
  • "We just can't figure out the motive," Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says, per CNN. "There's nothing that gives us any indication as to ... what would have triggered this."
  • Uber has confirmed that Dalton drove for the company, though they haven't said whether he was driving for them Saturday night, the AP reports. In a statement, Uber's chief security officer said the company is "horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence."
  • Chillingly, Dalton apparently picked up passengers hours after the murders. A visitor tells WOOD-TV that he ordered an Uber because he felt unsafe walking with a killer on the loose. "I kind of jokingly said to the driver, 'You're not the shooter, are you?' He gave me some sort of a 'no' response ... shook his head," the man says. "I said, 'Are you sure?' And he said, 'No, I'm not, I'm just tired,'" he says. "And we proceeded to have a pretty normal conversation after that." Dalton was arrested 20 minutes after the group was dropped off.
(More mass shootings stories.)

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