Investigators said early Monday that Jason Dalton, the Uber driver accused of fatally shooting six strangers and wounding two more this weekend across Kalamazoo County, Michigan, confessed that “he took people’s lives.” Dalton made his first court appearance via video broadcast later in the afternoon, when a judge charged him with multiple counts of murder in the random shooting spree that terrorized the midwestern community for nearly seven hours.
As the investigation enters its third day, crucial details remain unknown about the provenance of the murder weapon and Dalton’s relationship with firearms.
Here’s what we do know so far, as learned from interviews with neighbors, business owners, and local and federal officials:
Neighbors sometimes heard all-day shooting sessions coming from behind Dalton’s property.
David Fowler has lived kitty-corner to Dalton’s ranch home in rural Cooper Township for the last four years, but has never met the shooter or his family. He tells The Trace that gunshots would erupt from Dalton’s one-acre property “perhaps every two to three months,” and would last for an entire day.
“It was rapid-fire, very loud and distinct,” says Fowler, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran and deer hunter. “I mean, it almost sounded like a gang of 10 or 12 people shooting. I can imagine somebody was spending a lot of money on ammunition.”
Fowler says he doesn’t recall any of his other neighbors target-shooting on their properties. “I’d never dream of shooting in my backyard,” he says.
Jeff Sorensen, the supervisor of Cooper Township, says there is no local ordinance prohibiting shooting on private property, and there had been no complaints about gunfire originating from Dalton’s lot. “He must have been safe, because he didn’t have projectiles leaving his property,” Sorensen says.
At around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, an hour before police apprehended Dalton, some of his neighbors told WWMT-TV that they heard shots fired from his house but didn’t think much of it because it was a common occurrence.
He owned “several long guns and several handguns.”
The semi-automatic handgun used in the murders was recovered from Dalton’s vehicle after he was arrested during a traffic stop just after midnight on Sunday. Law enforcement officials have not disclosed how Dalton acquired the weapon. He has not been found to have a criminal record prohibiting him from gun ownership.
The Rampage in Kalamazoo Was One of Six Multiple-Victim Shootings This Weekend
Donald Dawkins, public information officer for the Detroit field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, tells The Trace that “several long guns and several handguns” were recovered from Dalton’s house. Dawkins said the Bureau is waiting on trace information to determine the origin of those guns.
He became increasingly paranoid after a local crime wave — which one area leader says never actually happened.
Neighbors said a string of area burglaries prompted Dalton to shore up security at his home. He bought a guard dog, and was concerned about people walking through his backyard. Gary Pardo, who described his neighbor as a “laid back guy,” told the Detroit Free Press that Dalton had a gun “just for protection.”
But residents interviewed by The Trace couldn’t recall any recent threats to the area.
Terry Watson, the owner of Cooper Cafe down the street from Dalton’s home, says she remembers a string of robberies in the neighboring town of Plainwell, but the perpetrator was apprehended and the stolen goods recovered. Jeff Sorensen, the supervisor of Cooper Township, says there were only four break-ins and one home invasion in the 36-square-mile township in 2015. With a population of 10,100, Sorensen says, “that’s not a huge amount.”
[Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio]