Friday 24 November 2017

No bail for Uber driver after he's charged with six murders in series of random shootings in US

Jason Dalton. Photo: Getty
Jason Dalton. Photo: Getty
Police tape surrounds the scene of the shooting. Photo: AP

Mark Hosenball

A Michigan man who worked as an Uber driver was denied bail at an arraignment on Monday for the fatal weekend shootings of six people in Kalamazoo as police searched for a motive in a case raising questions about how the car service vets its drivers.

Jason Dalton, 45, who faces 16 charges including six of murder that can bring life in prison, made his first court appearance and did not enter a plea. He appeared via a video link and was seen on a monitor at the Kalamazoo County court wearing glasses and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit as two guards flanked him.

Jason Dalton: Photo: Facebook
Jason Dalton: Photo: Facebook

When asked if he had a message for the community, Dalton, who remained emotionless through the proceedings, said he preferred to remain silent."

The judge denied bail and set March 3 for the next hearing.

Read More: 'Our worst case scenario': police baffled by motive of shooter who killed six in US gun rampage

Prosecutors alleged Dalton randomly shot multiple times at people during a five-hour period on Saturday at an apartment complex, a car dealership and a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Kalamazoo, about 150 miles (240 km) west of Detroit.

Police were investigating reports Dalton also may have driven customers of the Uber car-hailing service the night of the rampage. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including a teenage girl who was initially thought to have died.

"The Kalamazoo community is reeling from these senseless acts of violence that took so many innocent lives from us," said Jeffrey Getting, the county's prosecuting attorney.

Read More: Face of man accused of killing six people in random shooting spree in US

Initial checks with a key federal agency indicate Dalton was unknown to both law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies for having any kind of known connection to extremist groups.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he has spoken to the mayor and top law enforcement in Kalamazoo about the shootings and pledge whatever federal support they need.

"Earlier this year, I took some steps that will make it harder for dangerous people like this individual to buy a gun. But clearly, we're going to need to do more if we're going to keep innocent Americans safe," Obama said in remarks before the National Governors Association at the White House.

An Uber representative confirmed Dalton was a company driver and had passed background checks.

The attack renewed interest in how the company screens drivers, who use their personal vehicles to ferry customers at prices generally below those of established taxi companies. Critics say the company never meets potential drivers in person.

Michigan State Police said the shooting began at about 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Saturday with the report of a woman wounded outside an apartment building. At about 10 p.m., Richard Smith and his son Tyler were killed at the car dealership.

Dalton allegedly opened fire outside the restaurant about 15 minutes later, killing four women identified as Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Michigan; and Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; and Mary Jo Nye, 60, all of Battle Creek, Michigan, state police said.

The victims apparently were chosen at random and shot multiple times, prosecutors said.


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