Uber Driver Charged With 6 Murder Counts in Kalamazoo Shootings: ‘I Would Prefer Just to Remain Silent'

Jason Dalton, a 45-year-old Uber driver and former insurance adjuster who police said had no criminal record, was charged with the shootings Monday

A judge denied bail Monday for a 45-year-old Uber driver and former insurance adjuster charged with murder in a series of random shootings in western Michigan.

Jason Dalton appeared in court Monday afternoon where he quietly told a judge he would "prefer just to remain silent" on the charges against him. 

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting earlier in the day had charged Dalton with six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Getting said after the hearing that Dalton "admitted his involvement" in the shootings.

"I’ve described this previously as intentional, as deliberate, as cold," Getting said. "This was not just a momentary lapse, this was not just a crime, there was nothing that provoked this."

Dalton was arrested Sunday in Kalamazoo, where police say he went on a random shooting rampage that killed six people. Police say the rampage began about 6 p.m. Saturday outside an apartment complex, where a woman was seriously wounded. A little more than four hours later, a father and son were fatally shot while looking at vehicles at a car dealership.

Fifteen minutes after that, five people were shot in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Authorities are still trying to piece together the hours-long rampage. 

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said Uber is cooperating with law enforcement officials investigating the shootings and he believes the company will "help us fill in some timeline gaps." The company has said it is "horrified and heartbroken" and that Dalton passed a background check.

Dalton didn't appear to respond Monday when the judge asked him if he had an attorney to represent him.

An Uber passenger has said he called police to report an erratic driver more than an hour before authorities allege Dalton began shooting people at random.

Fuller said investigators are particularly interested in communication between Dalton and Uber, as well as between the company and customers he might have driven. Fuller said questions about motive and the shooter's frame of mind will be "the hardest to answer." He expects some answers will emerge in court but doubts they will be satisfying.

"How do you go and tell the families of these victims that they weren't targeted for any reason other than they were there to be a target?" Getting said at a Sunday news conference.

Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas described a terrifying series of attacks that began about 6 p.m. Saturday outside the Meadows apartment complex on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County, where a woman was shot multiple times. She was expected to survive.

A little more than four hours later and 15 miles away, a father and his 17-year-old son were fatally shot while looking at cars at a car dealership.

Fifteen minutes after that, five people were gunned down in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, Matyas said. Four of them died.

"These are random murders," Matyas said.

Dalton was arrested without incident about 12:40 a.m. Sunday after a deputy spotted his vehicle driving through downtown Kalamazoo after leaving a bar parking lot, authorities said.

Matyas declined to disclose anything found in the vehicle except for a semi-automatic handgun.

Getting noted after court Monday that Dalton appeared "calm" and "unemotional" after his arrest.

Authorities were also investigating a Facebook post that indicated the suspect was driving for Uber during the manhunt and had taken at least one fare, Getting said.

A spokeswoman for Uber confirmed that Dalton was a driver for the company, but she declined to say whether he was driving Saturday night.

Uber prohibits both passengers and drivers from possessing guns of any kind in a vehicle. Anyone found to be in violation of the policy may be prohibited from using or driving for the service.

A man who knows Dalton said he was a married father of two who never showed any signs of violence.

Gary Pardo Jr., whose parents live across the street from Dalton in Kalamazoo Township, described him as a family man who seemed fixated on cars and often worked on them.

"He would go a month without mowing his lawn but was very meticulous with his cars," Pardo said, explaining that Dalton, at times, owned a Chevrolet Camaro and two Hummer SUVs.

Progressive Insurance confirmed that he once worked for the company before leaving in 2011.

Dalton was an insurance adjuster who did auto-body estimates and once taught an auto-body repair class at an area community college, said James Block, who has lived next door to him for 17 years.

"He loved to do things outside with his kids" like taking them for rides on his lawn tractor, Block said.

Dalton's wife and children were unhurt, authorities said.

The suspect was in contact with more than one person during the rampage, authorities said, but they would not elaborate. Prosecutors said they did not expect to charge anyone else.

"This is every community's nightmare — when you have someone going around just randomly killing people, no rhyme, no reason," Getting said.

During a Sunday morning news conference, some law enforcement officials wiped teary eyes or got choked up. When the news conference ended, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley embraced.

Late Sunday night, mourners streamed into a Kalamazoo church for a prayer service intended to honor the victims and help residents cope.

With a population of about 75,000, Kalamazoo is about 160 miles west of Detroit. 

Dalton is scheduled to appear in court again March 3. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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