By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker
A family visiting Kalamazoo was horrified about the news of a man randomly shooting people Saturday night, so they called for an Uber for a ride back to their hotel.
What they were about to find out was horrifying: Their Uber driver was Jason Dalton, the 45-year-old man accused of fatally shooting six people just two hours earlier.
Dalton picked up the family at 12:12 a.m. and drove them 1.2 miles to the Raddison Hotel, a 7-minute trip, according to the family’s receipt.
“My father mentioned from the back seat, you know, the situation with the shooter,” Derek told 24 Hour News 8 in phone interview from his Indy home. “I kind of jokingly said to the driver, ‘You’re not the shooter, are you?’ He gave me some sort of a ‘no’ response.
“I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m just tired,’” said Derek, who asked that his last name not be published. “And we proceeded to have a pretty normal conversation after that.”
Once the family arrived at the hotel and saw the news coverage, they realized they had accepted a ride from a suspected mass killer, who was arrested about 20 minutes later.
It wasn’t Dalton’s first Uber ride that day. At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dalton picked up another man and took him on a dangerous journey, driving 80 mph and sideswiping another car after running a stop sign, according to the rider’s fiancé, Mackenzie Waite.
Waite’s fiancé, Matt, managed to get out of the car, called 911 and alerted Uber about five hours before police say Dalton opened fire at a car dealership and the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Kalamazoo, killing six people.
Waite said they couldn’t find an emergency phone number for Uber, so they sent an e-mail.
“We don’t know if Uber saw the message right away or not but Matt didn’t receive a reply … until an Uber rep called him around 11:00 Sunday to ask if he was okay,” Waite told me in a Facebook message.
Uber has not responded to questions about the slow response, but the company issued a statement Sunday afternoon.
“We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan,” Joe Sullivan, chief security officer of Uber, said. “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.”
Dalton was charged today with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight firearms charges.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.