On 20 February 2016, in the small city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, multiple shots began firing into the night. Over a period of five hours, three separate shootings took place, killing six and seriously injuring two. As 911 calls flooded into emergency switchboards, an Uber taxi cab continued across the city picking up fares. The driver’s behaviour was erratic, his driving dangerous and by the end of the night, he would be under arrest as the prime suspect in all three shootings.
Just after 5:40 pm that Saturday evening, 25-year-old Tiana Carruthers was walking to a playground with four children outside Meadow Townhomes in Richland Township when a car pulled up beside her. The driver asked if she was waiting for a taxi, ‘no’ she replied and the car moved off, no doubt looking for his fare, she thought. As she continued walking the car returned but this time the driver pulled out a gun. Shouting at the children to run she caught sight of the shooter as she was struck by four bullets in rapid fire.
Almost four hours later, 18-year-old Tyler Smith and his father, 53-year-old Richard Smith, were viewing a car at Seelye Auto dealership in Texas Township when they were approached by a well-built man with glasses and a close cut beard. The man spoke with them briefly before pulling out a gun and firing shots directly at them at close range. Tyler’s girlfriend, Alexis Cornish, was in the back seat of their own car parked just metres away and witnessed the shooting. Throwing herself down behind the passenger seat when the shooting started, she waited for the shots to stop. After seemingly checking if other car doors were open, the man got back into his own vehicle and drove off.
As these innocent people going about their business were being gunned down, 911 received a phone call about an Uber taxi driver. His driving was frantic the caller said, dangerously veering over the road, driving at high speeds and shouting at other drivers. A Facebook post appeared online warning of a frightening encounter in the back of an Uber cab with a driver called Jason who appeared unhinged, complete with a photo of the driver in question.
The final shootings that night occurred at a Cracker Barrel restaurant car park about four miles away from the car dealership. 62-year old Mary Lou Nye and her sister-in-law 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye were returning to their cars with friends 74-year-old Dorothy Brown and 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne. All four woman were killed by gunfire and a 14-year-old also at the car park with the women was shot, one bullet hitting her in the head leaving her seriously wounded. Six people had now been killed with a further two fighting for their lives and police had closed in on their suspect.
Jason Dalton, a 45-year-old married father of two, was an evening Uber driver with no history of violence, criminal behaviour or mental health problems. When police pulled his vehicle over he surrendered without protest. Dalton had a number of guns with him including a 9mm Walther handgun and a Glock handgun and was wearing a bullet proof vest at the time of his arrest.
For five hours Jason Dalton is alleged to have driven around the city in his Uber cab shooting his victims at random, all the while picking up taxi fares in between kills. After the news of the shootings and the suspect broke, shocked passengers realised their cab driver earlier in the evening was the same man that police had in custody flooding social media with their horror at the events and dubbing Jason Dalton the ‘Uber Killer’.
During initial interviews, Jason Dalton reportedly admitted the shootings, however, he made some strange statements regarding why he started to shoot people on that night. The Uber app he claimed, “made him feel like a puppet.” He told police a “devil head” would “pop up on his screen” and that was “when all the problems started.”
“Dalton described the devil figure as a horned cow head … and then it would give you an assignment and it would literally take over your whole body.”
Dalton blamed the app for his behaviour, saying it had “taken him over” and once he was arrested he “came back to reality.” Charged with six murders, two attempted murders and a further eight charges related to the possession and use of firearms, a psychological examination was ordered to determine his state of mind and whether he would be fit to stand trial.
In the months following the shootings, the funerals of the six killed were held and the two victims seriously wounded slowly moved forward in their long and painful recoveries. What everyone wanted to know is what made a seemingly ordinary man with no history of violence or mental health issues decide to carry out a random shooting spree? The state of Jason Dalton’s mental health is certainly in question. His claims of what made him kill are bizarre, to say the least, and there are claims that his behaviour at his court hearings to date only appears to back this.
On 20 May 2016, during a hearing where survivors and witnesses were giving their statements, Jason Dalton had to be dragged out of court after a series of verbal outbursts while witnesses were testifying. Mumblings and random shouting suggestive that Jason Dalton is not of his right mind. “They have bags, these old people — they have these old, black bags that are called — they’re black, they’re black bags, and people drive around and look at ‘em,” he yelled at one point.
After causing witnesses to breakdown in tears, he was removed from court and appeared some time later on a video conference screen from the local County jail to allow for the hearing to continue.
Jason Dalton’s lawyers have filed a notice of intent to use the insanity defence in his case. Furthermore, they have requested that Dalton’s initial statements to police made in the 24 hours after the shootings are suppressed and not admissible in court claiming his Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights were violated during the interrogations.
Currently, Jason Dalton remains behind bars in Michigan awaiting trial. A man who is alleged to have driven around the city of Kalamazoo with loaded firearms, shooting at random with seemingly no reasoning behind his actions. In one night six people lost their lives. Those injured and those who witnessed the shootings including four children will forever be haunted by his actions on that Saturday night last February.