Police said a gunman who appeared to randomly pick his victims opened fire outside a Michigan apartment complex, car dealer, and restaurant, killing six people in a rampage that lasted nearly seven hours.
Authorities identified the shooter as Jason Dalton, a 45-year-old Uber driver and former insurance officer who police said had no criminal record. They could not determine what prompted him to target victims apparently unrelated to him or to each other in the Saturday night shooting.
How would you go and tell the families of these victims that they were not targeted for any reason other than that they were there to be a target? Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a press conference.
Dalton, who was arrested in Kalamazoo after a massive manhunt, is expected to stand trial for murder.
Kalamazoo County Police Agent Paul Matthias described a terrifying series of attacks that began around 6 pm outside the Meadows residential complex on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County, in which a woman was shot multiple times. She was expected to live.
Just over four hours later and 15 miles away, a father and his 17-year-old son were fatally shot while looking at the cars at the dealership.
Fifteen minutes later, Matthias said, five people were shot dead in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel restaurant. Four of them died.
“These are random murders,” Matthias said.
Authorities said Dalton was arrested without incident at around 12:40 p.m. after a deputy spotted his car driving in downtown Kalamazoo after leaving the parking lot.
Matthias refused to reveal anything in the car except for a semi-automatic pistol.
By midday, authorities were investigating a Facebook post indicating that the suspect had been driving to Uber while being chased and taking at least one fare, Getting said.
An Uber spokeswoman confirmed that Dalton had driven in the past but refused to say whether he was driving on Saturday night.
Uber prohibits passengers and drivers from having weapons of any kind in the vehicle. Anyone who violates the policy may be banned from using or driving with the service.
A man who knows Dalton said he is married with two children and has shown no signs of violence.
Gary Pardo Jr., whose parents live across the street from Dalton in Kalamazoo Town, described him as a family man who seemed to focus on cars and often work on them.
“He used to spend a month without cutting his garden, but he was very precise with his cars,” Pardo said, explaining that Dalton, on occasion, owned a Chevrolet Camaro and two Hummers.
Progressive insurance confirmed that he once worked for the company before leaving in 2011.
James Block, who has lived with him for 17 years, said Dalton was an insurance expert who made bodywork assessments and once taught a car body repair class at a local community college.
“He liked to do things outside with his kids,” Block said, like taking them on his tractor in the park.
Authorities said Dalton’s wife and children were unharmed.
Authorities said the suspect had been in contact with more than one person during the rampage, but gave no details. Prosecutors said they did not expect charges to be brought against anyone else.
Dalton was interviewed by authorities and his phone had been checked out. Getting said they did not know if the gun was his.
“This is every community’s nightmare – when there is someone out there killing people randomly, with no rhyme or reason,” said Getting.
Tami George said the woman who was shot outside the apartment block was her next-door neighbor. She and her family heard the gunfire, so she ran outside and saw the woman on the ground.
She said four bullets fell into the cupboard of George’s house. Her son, James, was playing video games with two friends just meters from where bullets broke through the wall.
“I checked the rear window and saw a speeding car,” said James George, 17.
Tami George came out to clean the parking lot.
“I was worried about the children going out and seeing their mothers’ blood,” she said. “I cleaned it up. No child should go out to see their parents’ blood on the floor.”
During a Sunday morning press conference, some law enforcement officials wiped their teary eyes or choked. When the press conference ended, he adopted Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Public Safety Department head Jeff Hadley.
The four people killed outside the restaurant have been identified as 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye from Baroda, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne, and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown, all from Battle Creek. .
The two victims killed were identified at the auto show as Tyler Smith and his father, Richard, who was 53 years old.
A 14-year-old girl who was injured in the restaurant was taken to hospital in critical condition.