The man who police say roamed Kalamazoo County gunning down random victims this weekend appeared in court Monday to begin answering murder, assault and firearms charges.
The apparently random violence allegedly unleashed by Jason Brian Dalton left even law enforcement chilled. In an interview with CNN affiliate WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas called the shootings “your worst nightmare.”
According to authorities, Dalton, a married father of two, shot eight people in three locations across the county of 321,000 people Saturday evening in what Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Getting told CNN on Monday were “very deliberate killings.”
In between the killings, the Uber driver picked up fares, according to a source close to the investigation.
“This wasn’t hurried in any way, shape or form,” Getting said of the shootings, two of which were captured on video. “They were intentional, deliberate and, I don’t want to say casually done. Coldly done is what I want to say.”
Police: Dalton said he ‘took peoples’ lives’
Dalton was charged Monday with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight firearms charges.
At a probable cause hearing just before an arraignment, detectives testified that Dalton said he told them that he “took peoples’ lives,” after he was read his rights that include the right to remain silent.
Dalton appeared in court via video, wearing black glasses and an orange jumpsuit. He showed no emotion as the charges against him were read. A judge denied bail.
The only thing apparently connecting the victims? According to police, just Getting and his semi-automatic pistol — which is consistent with the shell casings found at each scene, authorities said.
“There isn’t a connection that we’ve been able to establish between any of the three victim groups with each other, any of the three victim groups with the defendant,” Getting told CNN’s “New Day.” “It just is, well, it was random, unprovoked violence.”
The Dalton family released a statement, expressing its condolences to the families of the victims.
“This type of violence has no place in our society, and we express our love and support for everyone involved. We intend to cooperate in every way that we can to help determine why and how this occurred,” it read.
While Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said Dalton is cooperating with investigators, there are no clear answers as to what touched off the shooting spree.
“My best sense is that it was somebody who was having an issue at the time and for whatever reason they decided to do what they did,” he told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.
Timeline of the shootings
The first shooting occurred around 5:42 p.m. Saturday.
According to police, investigators believe Dalton first shot a woman identified as Tiana Carruthers in front of her children in an apartment complex parking lot. She was struck multiple times but is expected to survive.
Four hours later, the gunman killed Richard Smith, 53, and his son Tyler, 17, at a car dealership, police said.
Tyler’s 17-year-old girlfriend witnessed the shootings from the back seat of their car.
“The suspect got out of his car. Walked up to them shot them and then left,” Public Safety Director Jeff Hadley said. “Cold blooded.”
Then he drove to a Cracker Barrel restaurant and opened fire in the parking lot, killing four women and grievously wounding a 14-year-old girl, police said.
Police identified the dead in those shootings as Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; Mary Lou Nye, 62; and Mary Jo Nye, 60.
The 14-year-old girl who was in the passenger seat of one of the vehicles is in critical condition. Hadley said Monday the girl is “still holding on” and responding to verbal commands.
Two hours after the final shooting, police arrested Dalton without incident in downtown Kalamazoo, police said. Eleven rifles were found at his home, a law enforcement official told CNN.
‘He was your average Joe’
Matt Mellen told CNN affiliate WWMT-TV he rode in Dalton’s car just before the shootings started.
“We got about a mile from my house, and he got a telephone call. After that call, he started driving erratically, running stop signs,” Mellen told the station.
WOOD-TV reported that another man told the station he had sought an Uber ride as a safer alternative to walking with a killer on the loose, only to apparently end up in Dalton’s car.
“I kind of jokingly said to the driver, ‘You’re not the shooter, are you?’ He gave me some sort of a ‘no’ response … shook his head,” the station quoted the man, whom it identified only as Derek, as saying.
“I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m just tired.’ And we proceeded to have a pretty normal conversation after that.”
Uber’s chief security officer told CNN that Dalton passed a background check. Police also said Dalton did not have a criminal record.
“For all intents and purposes, he was your average Joe,” said Hadley, the public safety chief. “This was random.”