Uber Driver Jason Dalton has been charged with six accounts of murder after going on a shooting rampage around Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, February 20.
The 45-year-old former insurance adjuster appeared briefly in court by video link and was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without bail. Michigan does not have the death penalty.
Dalton relinquished his right to self-incrimination during a talk with investigators where he confessed his role in the Saturday shootings.
Matt Mellen, a passenger of Dalton’s, told of his experience to a Kalamazoo television station. Mellen recalled hailing an Uber ride around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He said Dalton introduced himself as “Me-Me,” and had a dog in the back seat. Mellen sat in front.
About a mile into the trip, Dalton received a phone call, and when he hung up, began driving recklessly. Dalton started sideswiping cars and plowing through stop signs.
“We were driving through medians, driving through the lawn, speeding along, and when we came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away,” Mellen said. He said he called police and that when he got to his friend’s house, his fiancee posted a warning to friends on Facebook.
Uber said riders complained about Dalton’s driving. When alerted, company policy is to contact the driver. In the case of Dalton, Uber officials would not say if the company spoke to Dalton, deferring to law enforcement.
An Uber passenger reportedly called the police an hour before the shootings began to report erratic driving from Dalton.
Investigators reported that the shooting rampage lasted for seven hours, and his victims were chosen completely at random.
Police have also reported that Dalton picked up more passengers throughout the seven hours. One passenger, known only as Derek, said he and his family were among the riders.
“I said, ‘You’re not the shooter, are you?’ And he said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he kind of just said, ‘No, I’m just tired. I’ve been driving for 7 hours,'” Derek said.
Investigators received multiple reports of other passengers Dalton picked up during his shooting spree. They are in the process of confirming reports and are trying to piece together an accurate timeline of events.
Authorities are still unclear as to where the shootings took place, but they can confirm the first shooting outside of the Meadows apartment complex on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County where a woman was shot multiple times was random.
“It is so sad to think that you could be walking around and the suddenly shot for no reason at all,” says sophomore Teresa Buffolino.
Four hours later, and more than fifteen miles away, a father and his 17 year-old son were fatally shot while looking at cars at a dealership.
Fifteen minutes afterwards, five people were gunned down in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel, leaving four dead. A 14 year-old girl survived with a head wound that has left her hospitalized in critical condition.
The girl, Abby, was thought to be dead a few nights ago until she squeezed her mother’s finger, showing brain activity.
“We thought Abby was gone when we first got there,” her mother said, recalling the moment she knew her daughter was alive. “Breathtaking. It was a miracle in all its own. You don’t expect it and then all the sudden it’s there.”
Tyler Smith, Richard Smith, Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Barbara Hawthorne, and Dorothy Brown were all pronounced dead from the attack.
There has been no motive supplied for the shootings as the victims have no apparent connection to Dalton or each other.
When searching Dalton’s home, authorities seized many hand and long guns. However, there was no indication that he was prohibited from owning weapons.
A man who knew Dalton said he was a married father of two who had formerly never shown signs of violence or erratic behavior.
Dalton, who became a driver on January 25, had previously driven around 100 passengers for Uber.
This shooting incident is not a one time event for Uber, since the company hires drivers much differently than those of other car companies, making Ubers much less safe than cabs or other cars.
Uber has been facing a lot of scrutiny for their drivers and the way they handle situations. Most recently, drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting female passengers during their rides.
“This just goes to show the actual dangers of Uber. People do not think anything bad could happen but you never know what the drivers intentions are,” says junior Erin McGrath.
What are your thoughts on Uber?