Suspect in Michigan shooting a Uber driver

A grieving man outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant on the interstate highway near Kalamazoo. Four women were fatally shot, and a teenage girl gravely injured, as they sat in their cars outside the restaurant last Saturday. This was just minutes aft
A grieving man outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant on the interstate highway near Kalamazoo. Four women were fatally shot, and a teenage girl gravely injured, as they sat in their cars outside the restaurant last Saturday. This was just minutes after a man and his teenage son were fatally shot outside a car dealership in Kalamazoo.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A couple who live across the street from Dalton's (left) home said he "periodically shot his gun out the back door" into the air.
A couple who live across the street from Dalton's (above) home said he "periodically shot his gun out the back door" into the air.

He may have been taking passengers even in between the shooting incidents

KALAMAZOO (Michigan) • The shootings came out of nowhere, one after the other, and with no apparent connection, in an explosion of violence that has left the authorities trying to piece together what might have prompted the suspect to roam in search of victims.

In all, six people were killed and two injured at three shooting scenes across Kalamazoo county, in south-west Michigan between Detroit and Chicago. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 74.

"There's this sense of loss, there's this anger, there's fear, there's all these emotions," Kalamazoo county prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said at a news conference early on Sunday. "How do you go and tell the families of these victims that they weren't targeted for any reason than they were there to be a target?"

The authorities said just one man, Uber driver Jason B. Dalton, was responsible for last Saturday's long, chaotic night of terror, and investigators were looking into reports he was taking passengers before the shooting began and perhaps even in between the random bursts.

A woman was shot multiple times as she stood in the parking lot of her townhouse complex. A few kilometres away, and a few hours later, a man and his teenage son were fatally shot outside a balloon-lined car dealership near a strip of fast-food restaurants. Minutes after that, along an interstate highway just outside Kalamazoo, four women were fatally shot, and a teenage girl gravely injured, as they sat in their cars outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

Dalton, 45, was arrested without incident in the carpark of a downtown Kalamazoo bar about six hours after the rampage began. Security officers pulled his car over on Sunday morning, the authorities said. A semiautomatic handgun was found in his vehicle, and the authorities said it appeared to match the evidence from the shootings.

Investigators said he had been in touch with more than one person over the course of the evening, and they were examining his cellphone for more evidence. The authorities did not immediately provide a motive for the rampage. Dalton, who was in custody on Sunday and was expected to face formal charges yesterday, had no criminal record.

In the rural area outside the city where Dalton lived, police searched his one-storey home on Sunday. Ms Sally Pardo, who lives across the street from him and his family, which includes his two children aged 15 and 10, said she and her husband had always thought of Dalton as a "nice guy". But he used guns in a troubling manner and sometimes sounded a little paranoid, she said.

"He periodically shot his gun out the back door," Ms Pardo said. "He would shoot randomly into the air."

Ms Sara Reynolds, 25, said Dalton drove her and a friend to a cinema on Feb 14. She described him as "a little shy and awkward", but had no complaints over his driving.

Another passenger, Mr Matt Mellen, said that a driver who appeared to be Dalton picked him up on Saturday afternoon, and had driven erratically, speeding through the streets, ignoring a stop sign and swerving through traffic. "He wouldn't stop," Mr Mellen said, adding he left the car as fast as he could and called 911. He also told Uber about the ride.

An Uber official said Dalton had passed a background check. Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan said the company was "reaching out to police to help with their investigation in any way that we can".

Less than an hour after the shootings ended, Dalton agreed to pick up a couple at a local pub. Minutes before the pickup, though, they happened to change their plans and rode with a different driver. "By the grace of God, we ended up cancelling the Uber that we had," said Ms Carmen Morren. "We lucked out on that one."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2016, with the headline 'Suspect in Michigan shooting a Uber driver'. Print Edition | Subscribe