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Kalamazoo Driver Who Killed Six Says Uber App Made Him Do It

Jason Dalton, a 45-year old Uber driver, reportedly told police that a horned devil with a cow head would appear on his phone as he used the app and take over his body after giving him an assignment.

by VICE News
Mar 15 2016, 5:10pm

Photo by Carlos Osorio

The Uber driver who killed six and wounded two last month during a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan, claims he was not in control of his actions and had been possessed by the ride-sharing app, which had transformed him into a "puppet."

On Monday, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department released police documents containing details of the February 20 shootings after local news station WZZM 13 filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The shootings occurred separately in several parking lots around the western Michigan city, triggering a seven-hour manhunt that ended with the arrest of 45-year-old Uber driver Jason Dalton, who may have picked up fares between killings.

The documents contain a convoluted exchange between the suspected shooter and detectives, in which Dalton is said to have repeatedly stressed that "he is not a killer and he knows that he has killed," while insisting that the Uber app has the ability to "take you over."

Dalton reportedly told police that as he was using the app, a horned devil with a cow head would appear on his phone to give him an assignment.

"When I logged onto site [the Uber app], it started making me feel like a puppet," Dalton told detectives. The app would switch from black to red, he said, and take control of him.

The shooting rampage began at around 6pm on February 20 in the parking lot of an apartment complex. The first victim, Tiana Carruthers, later told police that a man matching Dalton's description "cut her off" with his vehicle. He started driving away after asking her a question, then stopped the car roughly ten feet from Carruthers. He "pulled out a large, black gun" and began shooting at her. The police report said that 10 bullet casings were later found in the parking lot. Carruthers was badly wounded but survived the attack.

The next shooting occurred four hours later, at around 10pm. Richard Smith and his son Tyler were shot dead while shopping for a vehicle at a Kia car dealership. The suspect began shooting at them and, according to Tyler's girlfriend, who witnessed the murder, fired "so many rounds that that he wouldn't miss."

A third incident happened 15 minutes later in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant near Interstate 94, where four people were killed. Michigan State Police identified the Cracker Barrel victims as Mary Lou Nye, 63, Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74, and 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne. A 14-year-old girl was also injured during the Cracker Barrel shoot out.

After the shootings, Michigan authorities began searching for a dark colored Chevy HHR SUV with chrome wheels. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said that employees at the car dealership and Cracker Barrel were "instrumental" in providing information to police that led to Dalton's capture.

Around midnight, according to the police report, Sgt. James Harrison noted a dark colored Chevy "slowly cruising through a parking lot" on the west side of downtown Kalamazoo, according to WZZM 13. Harrison followed the car, which stopped near the Wild Bull Bar and Grill. Harrison arrested Dalton, who reportedly had a semi-automatic pistol in his right pocket. He was also carrying a folding knife. Authorities said he was "even-tempered" and "cooperative" during the arrest. Dalton has no known criminal record.

During a search of Dalton's home, investigators reportedly discovered a cache of weapons in his basement, including bullets, gunpowder, 11 long guns, two handguns and knives.

Dalton is facing six charges of murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and eight counts of using a firearm.

According to police documents, on the night of the shootings, Dalton told his wife Carole that she wouldn't be able to go to work and their children wouldn't be able to go to school, and that they would understand why when they saw the news later that evening. Carole reportedly told investigators that she was initially confused by what he was saying.

Uber's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, confirmed to local news outlets that Dalton was a driver and said he passed a background check.

"We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan," Sullivan said in a statement at the time on Detroit's WDIV-TV. "Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can."

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