Kalamazoo Shooting Suspect Switched Cars Amid Rampage

Uber driver Jason Dalton crashed his SUV fleeing the first shooting scene and was driving a second vehicle when he was arrested.

23/02/2016 5:28 PM AEDT | Updated 26/02/2016 5:05 AM AEDT

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Accused killer Jason B. Dalton may have used two vehicles to carry out his weekend shooting rampage that killed six people and severely injured two, police said. 

Dalton, a 45-year-old Uber driver, opened fire at three locations on Saturday in a frenzy of violence that authorities said had no apparent pattern. Witnesses described the same shooter at each crime scene, but two different vehicles.  

A witness to the first burst of gunfire saw Dalton driving a silver SUV, Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. William Sparrow testified during Dalton's arraignment Monday.

"Further witnesses indicated the vehicle to be an Equinox or Traverse” SUV, Sparrow said. He said Dalton sideswiped another vehicle fleeing the Meadows development of townhouses on the eastern edge of Kalamazoo County -- the scene of the first shooting. Police later determined it was a silver Chevy Equinox. 

More than four hours later, when the gunman killed a man and his teenage son at a Kalamazoo Kia dealership, roughly a mile from the Western Michigan University campus, surveillance video showed him driving a "dark-colored Chevrolet HHR," according to Kalamazoo Public Safety Detective Cory Ghiringhelli. 

A vehicle matching that description was seen at the Cracker Barrel restaurant less than 20 minutes later, where four women were shot to death and a 14-year-old girl was critically injured, authorities said. 

Dalton was arrested early Sunday, after a sheriff's deputy spotted a black Chevy HHR leaving the parking lot of a downtown Kalamazoo bar. Ghiringhelli said. Dalton had a semi-automatic handgun in the vehicle, but was taken into custody without incident.

Uber passengers said Dalton picked up fares on Saturday before the shootings and between movements to new targets.

About an hour before the shootings, Uber passenger Matt Mellen called police to report Dalton was driving erratically, according to WWMT Channel 3. Mellen told authorities Dalton was driving a silver Equinox and had a dog in the back. 

A neighbor named Jamie, who did not want to give her last name due to privacy reasons, lives in the Meadows development of townhouses, told The Huffington Post Monday she ran outside after hearing multiple shots in front of her home. She said her son, watching from a window, saw the gunman speed away in a dented silver SUV -- with a dog in the back. 

Jamie said she found her neighbor, Tiana Carruthers, lying on the ground with three gunshot wounds, in the leg and arm. Jamie said she tried to calm Carruthers as they awaited help and listened to her neighbor's account of what had happened. 

Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
Paint marks getaway tracks and shell casings from the Feb. 20 shooting at the Meadows townhome complex in Kalamazoo. The complex was the first of three locations hit by alleged shooter Jason B. Dalton. 

Jamie said Carruthers told her the shooter asked if her name was Maise before driving away and returning to shoot her. 

"I thought it was a hit job or something," she said, noting another neighbor approached to the scene to tell police he had been watching her outside her apartment. The row of townhouses where Carruthers was shot is tucked deep inside the sprawling complex of winding streets and cul-de-sacs. 

Jamie said her neighbor described to police the shooter's eyes and hair color -- and the silver Chevy SUV. Carruthers also picked Dalton out of a lineup, detectives said. 

Jamie on Monday pointed to skid marks on the pavement she said the gunman left while making his getaway. They were framed by bright orange paint police used to mark the location of shell casings. 

During a special Mass for the victims on Sunday, the mother of one of Dalton's longtime friends expressed shock. 

"I couldn't believe it," Dolores Axe tearfully told The Huffington Post, noting she's known him since he was a teenager.  

Dalton was charged Monday with six counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons charges. Michigan doesn't have a death penalty, so he faces life in prison if convicted. 

  • Tyler Smith, 17
    Tyler Smith via Facebook
    Tyler Smith was a senior at Mattawan High School in Van Buren County, just west of Kalamazoo County. He and his father, Richard Smith, were looking at cars at a dealership when they were both killed in the shooting rampage Saturday night.

    The teen was enrolled in a marketing entrepreneurship program, MLive reported, and was popular among his peers, school staff said.

    "He was really a great kid and really well liked," Robin Buchler, the school district superintendent, told MLive.

    “[My son has] known Tyler for years -- they’re both seniors this year -- and he just said he’s devastated,” she also told local news station WOOD. “I think [my son] dreads walking into class tomorrow and not seeing Tyler in that seat where he’s been all year, all semester.”

    Smith's sports league, Kingdom Soccer Club, remembered him as "a talented soccer player, a great teammate, and an exemplary young man."
  • Richard Smith, 53
    Richard Smith via Facebook
    Richard Smith (center) was killed alongside his son Tyler during the shooting rampage at the Kalamazoo car dealership.

    In a Facebook post, his wife Laurie Smith called him her best friend and her rock and thanked her friends for consoling her and her daughter over the loss of both Richard and Tyler.

    "Thank you all for your support as Em and I and our whole family try to figure out how to go on after losing our son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew, friend, husband, soulmate, uncle, daddy, son-in-law, love of my life," she wrote.
  • Mary Lou Nye, 62
    Mary Lou Nye, a native of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, was the driver of a minivan parked in a Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot when she was shot and killed.

    "Every time I spoke with her, she was just pleasant," her neighbor Carol Dinges told The Associated Press.

    She was the sister-in-law, friend and college roommate of victim Mary Jo Nye, MLive reported, and recently worked part time at a preschool and childcare program.

    The two women were in Kalamazoo to see a show at their alma mater, Western Michigan University -- something they did together about once a month, a family member said. MLive reports they were on their way back to their cars after the show. Mary Jo Nye was riding in a separate vehicle, with other victims of the shooting.

    A GoFundMe funeral fund for Mary Lou Nye and Mary Jo Nye has raised more than $5,000 as of Monday morning.
  • Mary Jo Nye, 60
    Facebook/Mary Jo Nye
    Mary Jo Nye lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, where she had worked at an alternative high school teaching English to at-risk teens, the AP reported.

    Nye helped launch Calhoun Community High School and retired four years ago. The assistant director of the school told the AP that Nye acted in "a position of mentorship, kind of a motherly figure" for a lot of kids.

    Nye was the sister-in-law of Mary Lou Nye, who was also killed. The two met as roommates at Western Michigan University before Mary Jo married Mary Lou's brother.

    Nye was parked outside of a Cracker Barrel restaurant with Barbara Hawthorne and Dorothy Brown, and all three were killed when the gunman shot into the car. Abigail Kopf, who had been sitting in the front seat, remains in critical condition.
  • Barbara Hawthorne, 68
    Facebook/Barbara Hawthorne
    Barbara Hawthorne was a resident of Battle Creek, Michigan, and was in the car with Mary Jo Nye and Dorothy Brown.

    She worked for the food manufacturing company Kellogg's for 22 years before retiring in 2008, according to a company statement.

    “We are deeply saddened by these tragic events and brokenhearted to learn that one of the victims, Barbara Hawthorne, belonged to our Kellogg family," company Chairman and CEO John Bryant said. "... Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara’s family and friends, as well as all of the victims of this crime and their families."
  • Dorothy Brown, 74
    Neighbors said Dorothy Brown, whom her friends called Judy, was "a sweet, sweet old lady" and a wonderful neighbor always up for a chat, according to MLive.

    She often shared herbs from her garden with her neighbors and the AP reports she had two grown sons, one in California and another in Florida.

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