My terrifying Uber ride with 'mass killer'

By Kelly Mclaughlin, Wills Robinson, Anton K. Nilsson

Jason Dalton has no criminal record and authorities are unsure as to what motivated his killing spree. Photo / AP
Jason Dalton has no criminal record and authorities are unsure as to what motivated his killing spree. Photo / AP

A man in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has described the terrifying Uber ride he took on Saturday just before the married 45-year-old driver allegedly shot six people dead at random during a murder spree.

Matt Mellen, who works at a local brewery, was a passenger in Jason Dalton's car just before he allegedly opened fire on several random people in the Kalamazoo area.

A man from Indianapolis has also come forward to say he believes that he was one of Dalton's last customers before the arrest.

Mellen said Dalton introduced himself using a different name from the one listed as a driver. He then sped through medians and across a lawn, and Mellen jumped out at a stop at about 4.30pm.

A screenshot from an iPhone posted on Twitter shows what is believed to be Jason Dalton's Uber driver profile with a five-star rating.
A screenshot from an iPhone posted on Twitter shows what is believed to be Jason Dalton's Uber driver profile with a five-star rating.

"He wouldn't stop. He just kind of kept looking at me like - 'don't you want to get to your friend's house?' and I'm like I want to get there alive," he told WWMT.

Once he got to his friend's house he told his fiancee, Mackenize Waite, what happened. She wrote a Facebook post warning others of Dalton's driving.

"We posted the picture on Facebook just so our friends wouldn't get in the car with him if they had to take an Uber that night," Mellen said.

Three friends also confirmed their lucky escape when they called for Dalton and were possibly his last passengers before his arrest.

Mark Dunton, Scott Dixon and Kevin Leonard told WWMT they called for an Uber on Saturday night to go to a bar and became unnerved when Dalton arrived.

That is because he was driving the same kind of car they had heard was involved in that night's shootings.

When Dalton picked them up they said he was solemn.

The exterior of Jason Brian Dalton's residence is seen on the corner of West East Avenue and Douglas Avenue in Cooper Township, Mich. Photo / AP
The exterior of Jason Brian Dalton's residence is seen on the corner of West East Avenue and Douglas Avenue in Cooper Township, Mich. Photo / AP

"Quiet really. We actually, my buddy Scott actually said to him 'this isn't the car, you aren't the guy are ya?' and he kinda just said no," said Dunton. "It's crazy to think that someone could have gone out and just done all these horrible things and came to work straight-faced -- like he's just coming to work doing his job and just didn't say much at all."

Father-of-two Dalton surrendered to police on Sunday morning after he allegedly fired a barrage of 30 bullets at eight innocent and defenseless people during a five-hour rampage in his Chevrolet Equinox taxi.

A vigil was held for the victims of the shooting on Sunday night at Centerpoint Church in Kalamazoo.

Mellen said he's happy he's safe after the incident, but believes there's a chance it could have all been prevented.

"[It was a] pretty scary ordeal especially to be so closely involved with it. I'm just happy I'm safe," he told WWMT. "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."

In Waite's Facebook post about the incident, she said she and Mellen called 911 but "surprisingly they didn't seem at all concerned".

She said in her post: "ATTENTION kzoo peeps!!!! This uber driver named JASON drives a silver Chevy Equinox is NOT a safe ride! A little bit ago my fiancé got a ride with him and he was driving VERY erratically.

"They sideswiped a car blowing through the stop sign at Henderson castle and West Main Hill, and the driver continued driving.

"Then this man proceeded to drive 80mph down west main swerving in and out of oncoming traffic. Despite Matt pleading with this driver to pull over he refused.

"Finally when he slowed down the vehicle, Matt was able to get out. He was acting completely normal throughout all of this erratic driving!!

"Please share if you are in the kzoo area. Stay safe! 911 was called but surprisingly they didn't seem all that concerned......I'm thankful that no one was hurt yet."

Keith Black, who said Dalton gave him a lift mid-massacre, stated he was "lucky to be alive".

He said: "Pretty shaken up this morning. So lucky. Wish I knew why he didn't pick me. Have to make something of myself now I suppose."

Sara Reynolds, 25, told news.com.au Dalton had complained about receiving bad reviews when she took a trip in his car on Valentine's Day.

"I asked him what it was like to be an Uber driver and he said he'd gotten some really bad reviews recently but that they'd mostly been from drunk people he'd been running home from the bars and that maybe they didn't like the bumpy ride or something.

"He wasn't angry when he said it, just quietly under his breath, about them complaining he'd been driving erratically."

Telling the website she felt like she'd escaped with her life, she added: "I feel like lightening only strikes the same place once and that I've got a new lease on life. I need to live life to the fullest right now."

An Indianapolis man, who only identified himself as Derek, visiting Kalamazoo with his family said he was brought face-to-face with Dalton when he took an Uber just minutes before the driver was arrested.

He told WOOD TV he had heard about the random shootings, but did not know there was an Uber connection.

His family piled into Dalton's car, with Derek in the front seat and his wife and in-laws in the back seat.

"My father mentioned from the back seat, you know, the situation with the shooter," Derek said. "I kind of jokingly said to the driver, 'You're not the shooter, are you?' He gave me some sort of a 'no' response... shook his head...

"I said, 'Are you sure?' And he said, 'No, I'm not, I'm just tired'. And we proceeded to have a pretty normal conversation after that."

Their car ride to the Radisson Hotel was a mile and a half and only lasted seven minutes, and they were dropped off at 12.19am.

Derek said he didn't notice anything suspicious about Dalton's car, like the smell of gun powder or a visible weapon.

Twenty minutes later, Dalton was arrested.

Derek said upon reflection of the car ride, Dalton's response to the killer joke was odd, but his family didn't realize they could have been in the car with a suspected killer until turning on the news in their hotel room and hearing a description of the killer and his vehicle.

The following morning when they saw Dalton's picture, they were sure they were in his car.

"It was the same guy," he told WOOD TV. "It's a little jarring. I don't think that it's really set in yet."

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.

Dalton was arrested in a car he had been using to drop off and pick up passengers in between the attacks at three different locations - a restaurant parking lot, a car dealership and an apartment complex.

Some who got in his car to use his service said he was driving erratically and one even called 911 to report his bizarre behavior when they got out.

Dalton was apprehended and taken into custody without a struggle and police found a semi-automatic handgun inside, according to reports.

Michigan State police identified four casualties who were shot in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel Mary Lou Nye, 63, Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68.

High school senior Tyler Smith, 17, was killed in the parking lot of Seelye Kia, along with his father, Rich, while they were looking at cars, multiple reports suggest.

One of those wounded was a 14-year-old girl who was even pronounced dead at the hospital, but showed she was still alive by squeezing her mother's hand.

Dalton's neighbor said he knew the man had a pistol because the two of them 'talked about it'.

James Block said that police carried boxes from the house next door Sunday morning.

Block said he and Dalton would talk at the fence separating their properties, and that Dalton was an insurance adjuster who did auto body damage estimates.

He said Dalton was home "between the shootings" because his niece saw Dalton pull out of his driveway an hour before the first shooting occurred.

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 Block.

"He loved to do things outside with his kids" like taking them for rides on his lawn tractor, Block said.

Police were at Dalton's home early Sunday morning and carried out multiple boxes, said James Block, who lives next door. He said Dalton was a great neighbor for 17 years.

The two men would talk at the fence that separates their properties. Block said he knew Dalton had a handgun because the two men had discussed it.

Something out of the ordinary happened Saturday night not long after the shootings began, he said.

About 7pm, Block's niece saw Dalton drive out his driveway. When he got to the street, he stopped and rapidly backed toward his garage, turning his vehicle so the lights shined toward Block's house, Block said. Then he drove off, Block said.

"He was there between the shootings," Block said.

Dalton's wife and children were unhurt, authorities said.

Dalton does not have a criminal history and has not suffered from mental illness in the past.

But neighbors told WWMT he had been paranoid in the months leading up to the shooting and had been known to fire guns randomly.

Gary Pardo told MLive that Dalton "didn't seem like that kind of guy" who would do such a thing.

Police confirmed on Sunday that his family were safe as they searched his home.

The two scenes where bystanders were shot and killed were the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Texas Township and at the Seelye Ford dealership in Kalamazoo County.

Four people, those identified by police, died at the Cracker Barrel restaurant, while a 14-year-old girl was seriously injured.

Police said the suspect got out of his vehicle and shot people while they were sitting in two cars in the parking lot - a Chevrolet Cruze and an Oldsmobile.

One of those he killed was Mary Jo Nye, a former English teacher from the nearby Calhoun Community High School.

She is being remembered as a teacher who could help even the most reluctant students become better writers.

Tara Egnatuk, assistant director of the Calhoun Community High School, said she worked for six years with Nye at the alternative school that serves many at-risk students.

Egnatuk says that Nye helped write the charter to create the school. Egnatuk spent hours in Nye's classroom and was mentored by her during the time they worked together.

She says Nye was able to get students to become better writers by taking "baby steps" to get them to open up. She adds that Nye "played a really integral part in a lot of kids' lives".

Nye's sister-in-law, Mary Lou Nye, was also killed in the shooting. Friends have organized a GoFundMe page for their family.

Patrick Mallon Jr said he didn't know 74-year-old Dorothy Brown well, but what he did know he liked.

After she moved in two doors down in Battle Creek about 10 years ago, the woman everyone knew as Judy would come over with herbs she grew.

Mallon said she would always wave and say hello and whenever he and his wife went on vacation, Brown would keep an eye on the house and feed their cat.

Mallon said Brown had two grown sons, with one living in California and the other in Florida.

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."

Previous reports suggested that the 14-year-old had died, but she managed to show signs of life in the hospital.

First Lt Dale Hinz said: '"he's in extremely critical condition but she's still clinging to life."

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the 14-year-old is "working hard to stay alive".

The governor visited hospitals Sunday to meet with her family and the family of another victim.

He said the girl has "all our thoughts and prayers".

A father and his 17-year-old son were killed while looking for cars at a dealership, which is located four miles from the restaurant, police said.

A woman was also seriously injured by multiple bullets in a shooting at 5.45pm near the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township, according to News 8.

She told police she did not know Dalton.

Uber confirmed to Daily Mail Online that Dalton was a driver with the company. They added that he had passed background checks with the company.

Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan told Daily Mail Online: 'We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries.

A Kalamazoo resident described the Cracker Barrel restaurant as a "friendly, family-oriented place".

"It's crazy. You would never expect this to happen in your city," Cameron Wyatt told Daily Mail Online.

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.

Chief Jeff Hadley of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety told MLiveafter the shooting it was "totally unprovoked, random acts of violence".

"We are still trying to figure out the motive," he added.

Dalton is set to be arraigned on Monday.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said on Sunday morning more people would have died if Dalton had not been arrested.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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