A gunman who allegedly chose his victims at random during a seven-hour killing spree that left six dead in Michigan over the weekend is set to appear in court Monday.
But details have already begun to emerge about the suspected madman’s rampage that include him picking up and dropping off passengers in between killings.
Authorities identified the shooter as Jason Dalton, a 45-year-old Uber driver and former insurance adjuster who police said had no criminal record. They could not say what motivated him to target 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 Sunday at a news conference.
Kalamazoo 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 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,” Matyas said.
During the killing spree, Dalton allegedly continued to pick up and drop off passengers.
“I halfheartedly joked at him and said ‘You are not the shooter are you?’,” a man identified only as Derek asked his driver, alleged killer Jason Dalton, just minutes before Dalton was arrested, according to local station WOOD-TV.
The man hired Dalton to drive him and his family back to their hotel, which happened without incident twenty minutes after midnight.
Dalton was arrested at about 12:40 a.m. Sunday after a deputy spotted his vehicle driving through downtown Kalamazoo after leaving a bar parking lot, authorities said.
Matyas declined to disclose anything found in the vehicle except for a semi-automatic handgun.
By midday, authorities were investigating a Facebook post that indicated the suspect was driving for Uber during the manhunt, Getting said.
BREAKING: We’ve talked to woman who posted about bad Uber driver before shooting. Doesn’t want to comment right now. pic.twitter.com/XLyF9cPCrW
— Luke Stier (@LukeStier) February 21, 2016
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 neighbor. 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.
On Sunday morning, Tammy George came outside to clean the parking lot.
“I was worried about the kids coming out and seeing their mom’s blood,” she said. “I cleaned it up. No kid should have to come out and see their parent’s blood on the ground.”
During a Sunday morning news conference, some law enforcement officials wiped teary eyes or got choked up. When the news conference ended, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley embraced.
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.
Late Sunday night, mourners streamed into a Kalamazoo church for a prayer service intended to honor the victims and help residents cope.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.