Uber driver who shot 8 people in Kalamazoo area will spend rest of life in prison

Jason Dalton killed 6 people during February 2016 shooting spree

Jason Dalton at his sentencing on Feb. 5, 2019. (WOOD-TV/WDIV)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Jason Dalton will spend the rest of his life in prison after he shot eight people, killing six of them, in 2016 in the Kalamazoo area.

Dalton, 48, was scheduled to stand trial on a list of charges including murder and attempted murder, but instead he pleaded guilty to all of the charges. He shot eight people in three locations in the Kalamazoo area Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, 2016, in between picking up riders for Uber.

Eleven people gave emotional victim impact statements to the court on Tuesday ahead of Dalton's sentencing. Tiana Carruthers, who was seriously wounded when she was shot multiple times, was among those who addressed the court. She tried to engage Dalton, asking him to look at her. He did not.

WATCH HERE: Carruthers  to Jason Dalton: 'I'm still standing. Look at me'

"Prisons are not designed to be for those folks who we are mad at, they are designed to be for those who we are afraid of, and you clearly fall into that category," said Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Lipsey.

Watch the full sentencing hearing with victim impact statements here:

Life in prison without the possibility of parole was the mandatory sentence for Dalton.

The victims

Dalton's victims include a retired teacher, a woman who was simply standing outside her apartment, a father and son who were checking out cars at a dealership and a 14-year-old girl who was on her way home after seeing a play.

Dalton was charged with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight charges of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. The murder charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole,

Police said the rampage began about 6 p.m. Feb. 20 outside an apartment complex on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County. That's when Dalton shot a woman multiple times, seriously wounding her.

A little more than four hours later and 15 miles away, Dalton fatally shot Rich and Tyler Smith, 17, while they were at the Seelye Ford KIA Dealership on Stadium Drive.

Fifteen minutes after that, Dalton gunned down five people -- including the 14-year-old girl -- in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. The girl was shot in her head, but she survived.

The deceased victims from the restaurant shooting were identified as:

  • Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Mich.
  • Mary Jo Nye, 60, of Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Judy Brown, 74, of Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Barbara Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek, Mich.

Dalton was arrested early Feb. 21 in Kalamazoo. Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said investigators contacted Dalton's wife that Saturday evening "to make sure she wasn't a victim." Hadley added that she cooperated with police in their investigation.

Police said the shootings appeared to be random. Dalton didn't have a criminal history.

Dalton was found competent to stand trial, but he made bizarre outbursts during court appearances. He was dragged out of court during testimony from one of the victims. Dalton sat quiet during her testimony, but then made an apparent outburst which startled the woman on the stand. He had to be dragged out of the courtroom while she screamed.

According to the Associated Press, he raised his voice in court Friday and talked about people with "black bags."

Judge Christopher Haenicke called a recess and deputies removed Dalton from court.

Dalton: App 'started making him be like a puppet'

According to the arresting officer's report (view here), Dalton said when he logged onto the Uber app it "started making him be like a puppet." He told police he would have tried to have a "shootout with police, when the log in went from the black symbol back to the red, that's when Dalton stopped his thought."

"Dalton explained to us that when the app changed from red to black that is when he started having problems."

Jason Dalton

Dalton described 'devil figure' in Uber app

He told police during a series of interviews "the iPhone could take you over." He said he "wishes he would never have spoken what that symbol was when he saw it on his phone."

According to the report, Dalton 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."

"He said it starts out that you have to follow the navigation, but it gets to the point where you don’t have to drive at all, the car just goes. He was seeing himself from outside of his body."

Dalton talked about the Masons and the Eastern Star symbol. He said his grandmother was in the Eastern Star and his grandfather was in the Masons.

Watch the arrest video here.

Timeline of shootings (February 2016)

Feb. 20 - 5:42 p.m.

One woman was shot several times outside Meadow Townhomes in Richland Township in the presence of her three children. She was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Feb. 20. 9 p.m.

Police said a father and son were shot and killed at Seelye Kia in Kalamazoo

Feb. 20. - 10:24 p.m.

Authorities say the shooter fired bullets into two vehicles outside the Cracker Barrel in Texas Township, killing four people. 

Feb. 20. - 12:40 a.m.

A Kalamazoo County deputy pulled over the suspect's vehicle at Ransom Street in Kalamazoo. He is arrested.

Feb. 21. - 5:30 a.m.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley identified the suspect as 45-year-old Jason Dalton. Police began searching his home, located northwest of Kalamazoo.

Feb. 21. - 12 p.m.

Michigan State Police identify 4 victims: Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Mich; Mary Jo Nye, 60, of Battle Creek, Mich.; Dorothy Brown, 74, of Battle Creek, Mich.; Barbara Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek, Mich.

Feb. 21 - 3 p.m.

Michigan State Police identify 2 more victims: Richard Smith and Tyler Smith.

Feb. 21 - 3:45 p.m.

Western Michigan University Presidents issues statement admitting the university "failed" to provide adequate information and updates while the shootings were happening.

*Timeline compiled with information from WOOD-TV

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