Man recounts harrowing Uber ride with Kalamazoo suspect

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- An Uber passenger says he called the police to report an erratic driver more than an hour before authorities allege the driver began shooting people at random, killing six and wounding two others before being arrested.

See Full Article

Matt Mellen told WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo that Jason Dalton picked him up at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He said Dalton introduced himself as "Me-Me" and that he sat in front, since Dalton had his dog in the backseat.

Mellen said about a mile into the trip, Dalton got a phone call and that when he hung up, he began driving erratically, blowing through stop signs and sideswiping cars.

"We were driving through medians, driving through the lawn, speeding along and when we came to a stop, I jumped out the car and ran away," said Mellen. He said he called the police and that when he got to his friend's house, his fiancee posted a warning to friends on Facebook.

Mellen said he also tried warning the ride-hailing service.

"I'm upset because I tried contacting Uber after I had talked to the police, saying that we needed to get this guy off the road," said Mellen.

Several people have come forward since Dalton's arrest to say they Dalton picked them up for Uber in the hours after the first attack and before his arrest. The Associated Press could not immediately those accounts, though.

Authorities allege that Dalton shot the first victim outside of an apartment complex shortly before 6 p.m. and that he shot seven others over the next several hours. Dalton, 45, was arrested without incident early Sunday morning after a deputy spotted his vehicle driving through downtown Kalamazoo after leaving a bar parking lot.

He was expected to be arraigned later Monday.

Authorities have not provided a motive for what they said was his targeting of victims with no apparent connection to him or to each other in the Saturday night shootings.

"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?" Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a Sunday news conference.

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," he said.

Matyas declined to disclose anything found in Dalton's vehicle, except for a semi-automatic handgun.

By midday Sunday, authorities were investigating a Facebook post that indicated that Dalton 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.

Authorities were interviewing Dalton and reviewing his phone. They did not know if the handgun belonged to him, Getting said.

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

Tammy George said the woman who was shot outside the apartment building is her next-door neighbour. She and her family heard the gunfire, ran outside and saw the woman on the ground.

Four bullets flew into a closet of George's home, she said. Her son, James, was playing video games with two friends a few feet away from where the bullets pierced the wall.

"I checked out the back window and saw a car speeding off," said James George, 17.

The four people killed outside the restaurant were identified as 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye of Baroda and 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown, all of Battle Creek.

The two victims killed at the car dealership were identified as Tyler Smith and his father, Richard, who was 53.

A 14-year-old girl wounded at the restaurant was hospitalized in critical condition.

With a population of about 75,000, Kalamazoo is about 160 miles west of Detroit. It is home to Western Michigan University and the headquarters of popular craft beer maker Bell's Brewery. The city also is known for the anonymously funded Kalamazoo Promise program, which has paid college tuition of students who graduate from Kalamazoo Public Schools for more than a decade.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 100 people feared buried in China landslide

    World News CBC News
    A county government in southwestern China says around 100 people from 40 homes are feared buried by a landslide that crashed into their homes. The government of Mao county in Sichuan province says the landslide from a mountain fell onto the village of Xinmo at about 6 a.m. Source
  • Wainwright-based military member charged with child porn offences

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Wainwright-based soldier is charged with child pornography related offences after a joint investigation by the province’s Internet Child Exploitation unit and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. It’s alleged the man attempted to arrange to meet up with a Texas girl for sex, says a Friday news release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams. Source
  • Syrian doctor barred from U.S. under travel ban resettles in Toronto

    Canada News CTV News
    A respected Syrian doctor blocked from re-entering the United States to continue his Ivy League education after U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban has found a new home in Canada. Khaled Almilaji arrived in Toronto last Friday and was reunited with his wife, Jehan Mouhsen. Source
  • Michigan terror attack planned?

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Montreal man accused of trying to kill an airport cop in the U.S. did so on a highly symbolic day for Muslims, TVA reports. The network reports that Wednesday — the day Amor Ftouhi allegedly almost killed the officer at an airport in Flint, Michigan — was Laylat Al-Qadr or “night of fate. Source
  • Hockey hothead, 18, jailed for punching ref

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Cole Trevor Crane’s hockey horizons have been put on ice. The Dave Schultz wannabe has been jailed for 30 days after pleading guilty to pummeling a referee during a PEI midget AA hockey game on March 26. Source
  • Heavy rains prompt evacuations in Ontario town

    Canada News CTV News
    WATERLOO, Ont. - Heavy rain in the Waterloo, Ont., area has prompted some evacuations and at least one community has declared a state of emergency. The town of Minto, northwest of Kitchener, declared an emergency Friday morning and moved up to 30 families from their homes and closed some roads and streets in the community. Source
  • U.S. senators ask military to clarify role in Yemen torture

    World News CBC News
    Pressure mounted on the U.S. Defence Department Friday after multiple senators called for investigations into reports that U.S. military interrogators worked with forces from the United Arab Emirates who are accused of torturing detainees in Yemen. Source
  • Mulcair unimpressed by Canadian sniper's record kill

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    NDP leader Tom Mulcair is targeting the Liberals after it emerged a Canadian sniper smashed the world record for the longest confirmed kill. The gunman took an ISIS fighter off the board in northern Iraq with a shot that travelled more than 3.5 kilometres to hit its target — more than a kilometre better than the previous top shot. Source
  • Black off-duty St. Louis police officer shot by white officer

    World News CTV News
    St. Louis police say a black off-duty officer who heard a commotion near his home and tried to help fellow officers arrest three black suspects has been shot by a white officer who did not recognize him. Source
  • Footing the bill: Yukon willing to swap free trip for human toes

    Canada News CTV News
    Tourism Yukon has started a strange (but they insist, very real) search for donated human toes. The macabre contest comes after a brown, mummified toe served in a famous cocktail in Dawson City went missing. Source