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Michigan shooting spree: What we know and don’t know

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KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. – For seven hours, the shooter drove from one target to another, police said, gunning down victims at random.

And in between the shootings, he apparently picked up passengers for Uber.

As families mourn the deaths of six people in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, one question looms above all else: Why? Why did the gunman do this?

Here’s what we know and don’t know about the attacks:

The shootings

What we know:

The gunman shot eight people in three different parts of the county Saturday evening, authorities said.

Around 5:42 p.m., he shot a woman in front of her children at an apartment complex parking lot, prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said. The woman was struck multiple times but is expected to survive.

Four hours later, the gunman killed a father and son at a car dealership, police said.

Minutes after that, he drove to a Cracker Barrel restaurant and opened fire in the parking lot, killing four women and wounding a 14-year-old girl.

“These were very deliberate killings,” Getting said. “This wasn’t hurried in any way, shape or form.”

What we don’t know:

How the gunman chose the victims.

“This is your worst nightmare — when you have somebody just driving around randomly killing people,” Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas told CNN affiliate WOOD-TV.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the seemingly random selection of victims makes the rampage even more difficult to cope with.

“There is this sense of loss, anger (and) fear,” he said. “On top of that, how do you tell the families of these victims that they were not targeted for any other reason than they were a target?”

The suspect

What we know:

Two hours after the final shooting, police found their suspect: 45-year-old Jason Brian Dalton. He was arrested without incident in downtown Kalamazoo. Police also seized a weapon from his car.

Dalton was driving for Uber the night of the shootings and even picked up and dropped off passengers between attacks, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Matt Melle told CNN affiliate WWMT 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 affiliate.

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,” the public safety chief said. “This was random.”

What we don’t know:

Who that phone call was from, and whether it may have played a role in the rampage.

The victims

What we know:

Police have not released the name of the woman wounded in front of her children at the apartment complex.

Richard Smith, 53, and his son Tyler, 17, were looking at a vehicle at a car dealership when both were shot and killed, police said.

The four women killed at the Cracker Barrel parking lot were already in two vehicles when they were shot. Authorities identified them as Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; Mary Lou Nye, 62; and Mary Jo Nye, 60.

A 14-year-old girl who was in the passenger seat of one of the vehicles was struck and is in “very, very critical condition,” Hadley said.

What we don’t know:

How many more victims might have been killed if police didn’t catch the suspect.

“There is just no question more people would have died if (police) didn’t find him when they did,” Getting, the prosecutor, said.

The motive

What we know:

Police say they don’t think the shootings were acts of terrorism.

“We have no reason to believe this was connected to terrorism or something more,” the public safety chief said. “We believe he acted alone.”

Under federal law, “terrorism” refers to a violent or dangerous crime that appears to be intended to either (1) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (2) influence government policy by intimidation or coercion; or (3) affect government conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping, constitutional lawyer Page Pate wrote.

What we don’t know:

Virtually everything else about the motive.

“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.”