KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Jason Dalton told police he had killed but was not a killer; that it was his Uber app that had taken control of him and led him to open fire on random targets.
At first, Dalton pleaded the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer any questions, even as police pleaded that the victims’ families and his family needed a reason why. Then he appeared to soften when told that a child had been shot, saying he was sorry that happened.
DALTON SAID HE SAW DEVIL THAT ‘TOOK OVER BODY’
But it quickly took a bizarre turn. He told police his Uber app had taken over his body.
He had only recently started driving for Uber and spent that night picking up and dropping off fares in between the shootings at three locations in the Kalamazoo area.
In an interview that seemed to grow stranger by the moment, Dalton told police that the Eastern Star symbol — an inverted, colored five-point star — then the devil popped up on his phone through the Uber app.
“Dalton acknowledged that he recognized the Uber symbol as being that of the Eastern Star and a devil head popped up on his screen and when he pressed the button on the app, that is when all the problems started,” police wrote.
He described the devil figure as a “horned cow head or something like that and then it would give you an assignment and it would literally take over your whole body.”
DALTON REMEMBERED ‘POP, POP, POP OF GUN’
Dalton told police he didn’t really know how many shooting scenes there were. He told police he remembered the shooting at the Cracker Barrel in Texas Township — the final shooting — but not the shooting at Seelye Kia dealership in Kalamazoo less than half an hour earlier.
He said he picked his targets randomly.
“Dalton said he did not remember pulling the trigger and he just remembers feeling the percussion of the gunshots,” police wrote of the Cracker Barrel shootings. “Dalton said he remembered the pop, pop, pop of the gun.”
He said he didn’t remember the feeling of the gun in his hand.
“Dalton said that that is the really weird thing is that he never even aimed,” police wrote. “Dalton then extended his right arm straight out and moved it from side to side and said that he remembered that is just sort of had him and it was directing him as he was shooting.
“Dalton was asked if he was seeking out certain people or if he was shooting in a crowd and Dalton said that it was just a random thing.”
Dalton also told police he feared there could be more victims in the area of Riverview and D Avenue, where he recalled encountering two women wearing dark coats. Police found no other victims.
At some point during the night, Dalton went home, loaded a shotgun and fired shots into his garden shed outside — at the instruction of whatever was controlling him, he told police.
Dalton told police he owned a lot of guns.
“Dalton proceeded to tell us that he couldn’t imagine when he had bought them all that he would use them in this manner. Dalton then said that is why he is trying to tell us it is like an artificial presence,” police wrote in their report.
Dalton, who was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time of his arrest and was armed with a loaded 9 mm handgun, told police he didn’t get into a shootout with them because the color of the Uber app went from black to red.
Dalton had no known mental health problems before the shooting, but a judge has ordered a psychiatric examination to see if he’s competent to stand trial.
As for police, they say they don’t believe he was motivated by his Uber app.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting doesn’t buy it, either.
“This is something that happened because he wanted it to happen. Beyond that, I’m not sure we’ll ever get a good enough explanation,” he said.
Authorities on Monday released video of Dalton’s arrest, which happened approximately seven hours after the first shooting.
Sgt. James Harrison said he was returning from responding to a prank call when he came across Dalton’s vehicle driving slowly through the Up and Under Bar in Kalamazoo. He said he followed the vehicle for several miles before stopping it around 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 21.
According to a separate 87-page report released by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff Monday afternoon, Dalton had a Walther brand semi-automatic gun with an extended clip in his right pocket when he was arrested. One of the arresting officers asked Dalton if the gun was registered to him. The officer said Dalton did not respond to the question and stared blankly ahead the whole time while walking he was escorted to the patrol vehicle.
Aside from a well-coordinated police effort, the reports show that witnesses and 911 callers who described the shooter and his vehicle were key in helping police quickly capture Dalton.
He is accused of killing six people: 17-year-old Tyler Smith, 53-year-old Richard Smith, 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 74-year-old Dorothy Brown and 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne. Also wounded in the shooting spree ere 14-year-old Abigail Kopf and 25-year-old Tiana Carruthers. Both are now in rehabilitation facilities.
DALTON ‘A LITTLE MORE QUIET THAN NORMAL’
A close friend of Dalton’s told the sheriff’s department he was with Dalton the day of the shootings. He said they visited three gun stores, including High Caliber Gun Store, Southwicks Gun Shop and On Target Gun Shop, where Dalton bought a waistband holster, which he fit to a gun that appeared to be a 9 mm Walther.
The friend told investigators Dalton was a “little more quiet than normal,” but Dalton said nothing was wrong when he asked.
Dalton parted ways with his friend that afternoon, saying he was going to take a nap then do some driving from Uber, the report stated.
The friend told authorities Dalton never talked about killing or shooting anyone and he was surprised to hear he was allegedly involved in the shooting spree.
Minutes before the first shooting, a couple encountered Dalton driving erratically at D and Douglas avenues in Cooper Township, the county report states. The couple said Dalton was speeding and stopped so abruptly at the intersection, they weren’t sure he was going to stop. The husband told deputies the vehicle pulled behind his vehicle and immediately passed him, hitting “an incredible rate of speed” before zipping out of sight.
A couple of moments later, the husband said the vehicle reappeared behind him and passed him on a curve, speeding off again. The couple believed they saw the driver on his cellphone.
The couple recognized Dalton’s photo on the news as the same man who was driving aggressively.
FIRST SHOOTING: ‘SUSPECT JUST KEPT FIRING’
An Uber user told the sheriff’s department she requested Dalton to pick up her boyfriend around 5:15 p.m. from the Meadows apartment complex, where the first shooting happened around 5:45 p.m.
The first victim, Tiana Carruthers, told investigators the gunman pulled up to her as she was walking outside Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township, blocking her path, according to the sheriff’s department report.
She said the driver was about two feet away when he asked if she was someone else by a different name. Carruthers told the driver she was not and continued to walk.
She said that’s when she noticed a large black German Shepherd-type dog in the back seat of the vehicle that was barking and appeared agitated. She said the driver turned around, drove back toward her and was about 8-10 feet away when he pulled out a gun and began shooting at her without warning, the report added.
Carruthers told investigators she tried to run but fell after being shot.
A witness told the sheriff’s department Carruthers was with several children when the gunfire rang out. They were running towards the apartment when the witness lost sight of Carruthers.
“She states that the suspect just kept firing at them,” the report continued on.
Authorities recovered 10 shell casings at the scene where Carruthers was shot, the report stated. They also spotted two tire marks left behind by the vehicle as it sped off.
Deputies who arrived at the scene found Carruthers lying face down near a pickup truck, conscious but “in great pain.”
Carruthers was hit by at least three bullets, including one shot to her shoulder and two to her torso.
In a 911 call, Carruthers can be heard asking about the children, which included two of her own. “We’ve got them,” the caller reassured her.
“Please don’t move. Please don’t move,” the 911 caller can be heard telling Carruthers. “They’re coming, OK. Please don’t move. We got the kids. Please don’t move. Stay there.”
Carruthers told authorities she did not know who shot her. Without seeing any news reports of the shootings, she later picked Dalton’s photo out of a collection of six photos presented to her while she was in the hospital, the sheriff’s department stated.
A forensics team later found five shell casings inside the Equinox that were similar to those found at the townhomes, the sheriff’s report concluded.
As the suspect left the first shooting scene, the sheriff’s department said Dalton ran a red light at Gull Road and G Avenue and hit a Chevrolet Impala before speeding off.
The Uber user who originally called Dalton to the Meadows apartment complex said he didn’t return her call until 6 p.m., when he told her “something had come up and he could not do the pick-up.” She said Dalton was rude during the call.
AN ODD REQUEST
After the first shooting, Dalton called his wife and asked her to meet him at his parent’s house to switch his silver Chevrolet Equinox for her black Chevrolet HHR because he had been side-swiped by a disgruntled taxi driver in a maroon Chevrolet Impala who also fired a gunshot at him.
Carole Dalton said her husband told her the other driver was angry Uber was taking away his business, the sheriff’s department reported.
However, Carole Dalton said she didn’t believe him because he would not look her in the eye.
The newly released sheriff’s report said during that meeting, Dalton gave his wife a fully loaded 9 mm gun and said it was not safe for her to be at the house without a gun. Dalton also told his wife she could not go back to work and their children couldn’t go back to school and she would see what he was talking about on the news.
According to the report, Dalton called his wife around 8:26 p.m. and told her not to call her parents, which she said was an odd request. That was the last she heard from him that evening.
When investigators later met Dalton’s wife at her in-law’s home following the shootings, they were greeted by a black German Shepherd named Mia. Dalton’s wife said he had taken the dog to a dog park earlier in the day.
THE CASE MOVING FORWARD
Dalton is charged on 16 counts, including six counts of open murder, two counts of attempted murder and eight counts of felony firearm.
“I haven’t gotten over how angry I am about this,” he said. “I’ve never seen a case like this in terms of its community impact. I can’t tell you the number of times, the number of places- Everywhere I go, someone will say how they were impacted by this.”
He wasn’t at liberty to talk specifics of the police reports released Monday, but said he is as troubled as everyone else.
“You read it and that brings it back,” he said. “I really can’t get over the feeling of having been there … Everybody has been victimized by this case.”
Despite the extensive media coverage of the case, Getting said he fully intends to try the case in Kalamazoo County.
He’s awaiting the results of Dalton’s psychological exam before moving forward with the case. Meanwhile, Dalton remains in the Kalamazoo County jail and the investigation into the shootings continues.
24 Hour News 8 reached out to Dalton’s attorney, but had not heard back as of Monday night.
–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean and Leon Hendrix contributed to this report.