KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. – Jason Brian Dalton’s life was so innocuous, police had never heard of him. Neighbors said he was a “real nice guy.” By all accounts, the 45-year-old seemed harmless.
That changed over the weekend when, police said, Dalton went on a shooting spree in Michigan that left six people dead.
A seventh victim was shot in front of her children. And a 14-year-old girl remains in critical condition.
Even police are baffled as to why Dalton may have committed such violence Saturday night.
“This guy was not on anybody’s radar for any reason,” Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said. “He didn’t have a lengthy criminal history. He wasn’t a known troublemaker. And yet here he is, having shot eight people and killed six.”
For almost seven hours, police say, Dalton drove around Kalamazoo County, stopping to shoot people at an apartment complex, a car dealership and restaurant parking lot.
And between the shootings, Dalton picked up and dropped off passengers for Uber, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
A bizarre Uber ride
Matt Mellen said he rode in Dalton’s car shortly before the rampage started.
“We got about a mile from my house, and he got a telephone call,” Mellen told CNN affiliate WWMT.
“After that call, he started driving erratically, running stop signs. We were kind of driving through medians, driving through the lawn speeding along and then finally, once he came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away.”
Mellen said he called the police. “He was surprisingly calm. I was freaking out.”
Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said Dalton passed a background check. Police also said Dalton did not have a criminal record.
“We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo,” Sullivan said. “We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can.”
After an hours-long manhunt, police found Dalton’s Chevrolet HHR and arrested the suspect. County prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said the alleged gunman was “even-tempered” during his arrest.
‘Your average Joe’
In the suspect’s Kalamazoo neighborhood, residents said they never saw Dalton distressed.
He was “very level and calm, and (a) real nice guy,” Chad Landon told CNN affiliate WXYZ.
For the past 10 years, Sally and Gary Pardo have lived across the street from Dalton’s house.
Sally Pardo told CNN that Dalton is married with two children. They seemed to be a “typical American family,” she said.
“We’re in shock,. We’re wondering what might have caused him to do this (to) all those innocent families and the victims,” her husband Gary Pardo told CNN affiliate WXYZ. “It’s just horrific.”
Dalton did have an obvious passion, Gary Pardo said: “I know he liked guns.”
Hadley, the public safety chief, said authorities have seized weapons from Dalton’s home. But it doesn’t explain the rampage.
“For all intents and purposes, he was your average Joe,” Hadley said. “This was random.”
A spate of charges
Dalton might speak for the first time in court Monday afternoon, when he is expected to be arraigned, Hadley said.
Getting, the prosecutor, said he thinks Dalton will be charged on more than a dozen counts.
“I would expect six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, six counts of felony firearm, and then we’ll see from there.”
Why Dalton may have driven around his own community, gunning people down randomly, remains a mystery.
“We just can’t figure out the motive,” said Hadley, the public safety chief. “There’s nothing that gives us any indication as to why he would do this or what would have triggered this. The victims did not know him; he did not know the victims.”