KALAMAZOO, Michigan — A strange phone call. An inquiry for a mysterious person. A heavy duty jacket. Piecing together these scant clues in search of a motive for this weekend’s shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has not yet produced an answer.
Jason Brian Dalton is charged with six counts of murder. According to detectives, Dalton told them he “took people’s lives.”
On Tuesday, police said Dalton did not have a history of mental health issues.
Two people who crossed paths with Dalton shared the few details to which they can attest.
The suspect switched cars
Dalton was a driver for Uber, and picked up fares between the shootings, a source close to the investigation said.
Matt Mellen was one of the passengers Dalton picked up before the bloodshed started.
About 1 mile into the trip, Mellen told CNN’s “AC360,” Dalton received a phone call. Mellen heard Dalton tell the caller he had a rider at the moment, and that he would call back after dropping him off.
Dalton hung up, and then started driving erratically, Mellen said.
Dalton ran red lights, squealed the tires and nearly side-swiped another vehicle, Mellen said.
Mellen pleaded for Dalton to stop and let him get out of the car, but he initially refused to stop. Once Dalton slammed on the brakes, Mellen jumped out of the car and called police, he said.
“I was actually picked up in a different vehicle than the vehicle he was apprehended in,” Mellen said. “I was picked up in a Chevy Equinox — silver Equinox — and he was apprehended in a darker colored HHR.”
During the hourslong search for the gunman Saturday night, authorities said they were looking for a silver or dark blue car.
Kalamazoo Police Chief Jeff Hadley confirmed that Dalton switched cars. Dalton allegedly committed the first shooting in the Equinox, then went home and started driving the HHR, Hadley told CNN.
Circling a parking lot
Tiana Carruthers was the first victim, authorities said. She was shot in front of her children, and survived.
Carruthers’ neighbor, Tammy George, told CNN Carruthers had an instinct that something was wrong.
George, who was inside her home when the shooting happened, but talked with witnesses, said Carruthers was looking after some children, including her own, at a playground.
A car drove up and the driver asked for someone named “Missy” or “Misty,” before circling the playground in his vehicle.
At that point, George said, Carruthers “just knew something was wrong and told (the children) to run.”
Carruthers had been shot.
The neighbor said she believes the shooting was random. Even though the suspect asked for someone by name, George thinks it was just a ploy to drive around the complex.
About 15 casings were found on the property, George said. Four of the bullets hit her apartment, including one that penetrated the wall and entered a closet. It was stopped by an insulated cooler stored inside.
He bought a ‘heavy-duty’ jacket at a gun store that day
A few hours before the rampage started Saturday, Dalton walked into Southwick’s, a gun shop in the nearby city of Plainwell, owner Jonathan Southwick said.
Dalton was a regular at the store. He smiled, laughed and hugged an employee, Southwick said.
He spent about 10 minutes in the store before buying a “heavy duty” jacket that could conceal a small pistol.
The gun store owner said Dalton didn’t give him any reason to be alarmed.
Police: No signs of mental illness
Dalton had no mental health history, the police chief told CNN, and was not on any medications.
“Behind the scenes during the arraignment my team said he was polite, meek and mild,” Hadley said. “He was completely unaffected by anything.”
As authorities tried to gather more clues about Dalton’s life, they found 11 rifles at his Kalamazoo home, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The suspect is married with two children. Family members said they are bewildered about what happened.
“This type of violence has no place in our society, and we express our love and support for everyone involved,” the Dalton family said. “We intend to cooperate in every way that we can to help determine why and how this occurred.”