Rideshare Rampage in Kalamazoo
Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement and issues crime fighters face. This blog highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records, and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Reader discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
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Driver circled the apartment complex. The idiot was supposed to pick up was nowhere to be seen. His iPhone was her accomplice as the mockery continued. I'm here. I'm here. Where are you? No, I'm here.
He was sure she was just fucking with him. It happened all the time. He did his best to speed over to a place and was canceled just as he got there.
Driver had only been the slave to the phone for two weeks, but some calls made it seem like an eternity. Come. Fetch. Take. Drop. Never even a good boy for his trouble. These motherfuckers. It was the drip, drip, drip of slights that got him. Those slights added up.
He heard the way they talked about him, the whispered jokes. Like he was beneath them. They were the lords and ladies. He was just, well, Driver. In this world of chaos, there was no respect.
Today he brought his dog. A little fuck you. You wanna ride? You better like my big ass German Shepherd breathing down your neck, because I'm in charge here. You're in my car.
This was the first fair of the day when he finally found where here was. He wasn't psychic, but she wouldn't get in with the dog. Bitch. He drove away. Fucking waste of time.
Next guy got in. He liked dogs. He seemed okay, but that last girl really pissed him off. Who didn't like dogs? Driver gripped the wheel 10 and two. Jaw clenched, white knuckles on full display.
Fuck traffic. Too slow. He floored it, swerving into the oncoming crowded lanes. Horns blared. Tires squealed. People shouted as he blasted, pasted the startled motorists. They jerked their cars to one side or the other for survival. One didn't make it. Sideswiped, it caromed the curb. Driver continued without stopping.
The collision was the jolt that the passenger needed to break the startled silence. Driver heard and tried to ignore as, "dude, you hit that car." Turned to "You're gonna kill us" then a wailing. Please, just let me out."
Driver thought, screw that. I'm in charge. He didn't stop. He was genuinely surprised, almost laughed when, as he cut a sharp left, the kid opened the door and rolled out onto the ground. Driver saw him bounce across the asphalt. The passenger door whipping fully open through the arc of the turn before slamming shut as he accelerated away. Good riddance. Pussy.
A couple of blocks later, Driver checked the app. He accepted a fare. Macy, at a nearby apartment complex. She wanted a ride. Wonderful. Driver wanted to see if Macy liked the fucking dog.
A few minutes later, he pulled up. It was a big complex. No Macy. A few minutes, still no Macy. Driver sent her a text. A few unhelpful directions from Macy. He was there. Macy was pissing him off.
A woman and some kids came out from the apartment building. Driver pulled forward. Hey, are you Macy? The woman gave him a don't bother me look. Not Macy. Driver started to pull away. Then it hit him. Maybe it is Macy, and she doesn't like the dog. Maybe she's just messing with me, wasting my time.
He circled back toward the woman. She looked over her shoulder at him just as he brought the pistol across his chest and held it out the side window with a two-handed grip.
The woman, eyes wide, screamed something. The kid scattered, but she wasn't fast enough to outrun driver's nine millimeter. He fired, and at this range, he could spot the hits. He continued shooting even after she was on the ground. Then he jammed the accelerator to the floor.
Driver bolted back out into city traffic, which was still moving way too slow. Again, he swerved into oncoming lanes, battling against chaos, ricocheting off another car. He had just killed somebody. This realization and the exhilaration washed through him. He felt unstoppable, but there had been a problem with the gun, a jam, or something.
Driver pulled into a nearby house, his parents' place. Good thing they were off on vacation. He switched his broken silver SUV for a black one, a color that complimented the night ahead.
Then a weapon swap. He considered a long gun and decided against it. He grabbed a new pistol, the same caliber, nine millimeter. His favorite.
Newly equipped driver was reborn onto the mean streets. He had crossed his Rubicon. He was a predator now. Looking for just the right kill. The kill that would satisfy that itch. The one that would even the score and set things right.
Driver made a little money while he searched. The next couple of fares went off without a hitch. They were normal, reasonable riders. People in a hurry. They were where they said they would be when they said they would be. The kind of people who deserved to get where they were going. So, he took them.
After making the drop-offs, Driver visited a nearby car dealership. They had a used BMW he was interested in. The lot was closed, but he still wanted to have a look. When he arrived, he saw two men standing near his BMW. The damn lot is closed. What are they doing here? With closer scrutiny, he read the situation.
It was a father and a son checking out a pickup truck, but they were close to his BMW. Interrupting that private viewing he wanted. He should be able to look at the BMW at 10 o'clock without other people competing with him. Their presence annoyed him.
Driver parked and stalked closer. Both men, one young, one old, looked at him with the same suspicious eyes as he approached. When he was close enough that he couldn't miss, he pulled the pistol from his pocket and sent them and the world a message. Pow. They would never call for a ride. Pow. They would never interrupt his car shopping again. Pow. He was teaching them respect.
Driver pulled the trigger over and over again. In the hail of bullets, the father turned towards the son as if to shield him, but he wasn't fast enough. Seconds later, Driver found himself standing over the two bodies, one partially draped over the other in a gruesome embrace. Then Driver did what he came to do. He took time to admire his BMW.
All of driver's trepidation was behind him now. This past afternoon and evening had been a dry run, with anger carrying him across the finish line. He left the scene of his latest kill exhilarated. Inspired. The wrongness, the rightness, a cocaine jolt to his tedious life. Now, Driver was cruising for the big hit. He was the reaper, the hand of fate, rolling the dice.
He spotted a couple of cars in the otherwise empty Cracker Barrel lot. As he passed, he saw a bunch of ladies under dome lights talking. He circled back. Then he parked across the lot and approached on foot.
Fate had predator style. He couldn't just wing off some rounds. The first had to be the driver. He stood at the side window. Peered through the glass. The two cars actually held five. They all looked nervous as he walked up. They should be afraid. She put down the window. He asked for a dollar. She couldn't know, but any answer was wrong. Still, it stung a little to be denied. That was the last mistake she was ever gonna make.
Pow. Headshot. Driver. Pow. Headshot. Backseat. Fish in a barrel. They didn't even try to run. They just screamed. Good. Now they felt his pain. He walked calmly around, circling each car. Firing. Making the hits. Making the kills. Powerful, unstoppable, indestructible.
On the afternoon of Saturday, February 20th, 2016, Jason Dalton, a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan, left his home to work a shift as an Uber driver. Over the course of the following six hours, he would take several fares safely to their destinations. He would also shoot eight people. Six of those would die.
Examining how this spree occurred would be the easy, albeit painful, part. Understanding his motive, the why, would prove elusive. As investigators and reporters pieced together the events, this is what they found.
Dalton drove for Uber part-time. He started his shift in his silver Chevy Equinox. This model car is a crossover vehicle. Mid-sized has four doors and is spacious enough for people to get in and out of easily. It's small enough to be merciful on the wallet when refueling.
On this day, Dalton traveled with a partner, his black German Shepherd named Mia. Uber's rules allowed drivers to have animals as long as it didn't create safety complaints.
Dalton's first fare, a female college student, saw Mia and refused to get into the car. Dalton didn't immediately react to the rebuff. He simply drove away and picked up the next rider in line, a young man named Matt. During the first part of the ride, Matt and Dalton exchanged pleasantries, which were interrupted when the driver received a phone call. Matt later said he didn't notice anything unusual about the conversation. He didn't hear Dalton's voice change tone, so he didn't have any warning that things were about to go sideways.
Matt said that one moment the drive was normal. The next, it was as if the driver had gone
crazy. As he ended his call, Dalton floored the accelerator. He sped and swerved across oncoming lanes of traffic, recklessly blowing through red lights and stop signs. Narrowly missing cars, then sideswiping one, bouncing off and continuing to barrel down crowded streets.
Horrified from the passenger seat, matt screamed at Dalton, who acted as if everything was normal. Matt pleaded with the driver to pull over and let him out. Dalton ignored him. At one point, the car slowed while turning and the passenger jumped out, falling and skidding across the pavement. Stunned, Matt lay laying the roadway on his back as he watched the Equinox speed away.
Kalamazoo area 9 1 1 dispatchers received three calls from this incident. First, the driver of the Ford Taurus that had been sideswiped. Next, the passenger Matt Mellon. Then a woman who'd been enjoying a Saturday afternoon on her front porch when she saw Matt flop onto the roadway nearby.
Dalton drove his damaged Chevy Equinox home. Once there, he equipped himself with a nine millimeter Glock pistol, ammunition, and a ballistic vest. Dalton surveyed the fresh damage to his car and determined that it needed to be swapped out. He called his wife, who was out running errands. She agreed to meet him at Dalton's parents' house in North Kalamazoo when she finished what she was doing.
In the interim, Dalton took an Uber dispatch. At about 5:00 PM a high school girl named Macy called an Uber to pick up her boyfriend in northeast Kalamazoo. Dee Allen, Macy's boyfriend, lived in a complex known as Meadows Town Homes.
The Uber request was to pick DeeAllen up from Meadows and transport him to Macy's house nearby. When she entered the Uber request, Macy entered the address for the main office, not Dee Allen's building. A short time after arriving for the pickup, Dalton texted Macy for clarification. Macy texted back some more information and later asked for progress, but received nothing back.
On his end, Dalton drove around the Meadows parking lots, increasingly frustrated, not being flagged, and not finding a rider.
Tiana Caruthers was a resident at the Meadows. In the early evening she left her building, walking a contingent of five children, one of them her own daughter, towards the playground. As they crossed the parking lot, a man in a damaged Chevy Equinox pulled up and asked Tiana if she was Macy.
Disappointed, Dalton pulled away, but then circled back in the parking lot. As the car came back around, the driver pointed a pistol out the side window and began firing.
Tiana screamed for the children to run, even as the rounds were hitting her. She was driven to the ground with shots through both legs. One was fractured. Another bullet hit when she was already down, traveling through her hip upward into her abdomen and penetrating her liver. Immobilized, Tiana's only defense was to play dead.
After the shooting, Dalton once again recklessly sped away. Witnesses reported seeing driving in excess of 70 miles an hour as he blew through a red light and sideswiped a second car. Dalton returned to the original plan. His parents, who were out of town, lived in a house near the Meadows Apartments. His wife was due to meet him there.
Once he arrived, Dalton pulled the Equinox into the garage. Dalton's wife, Carol, and their two kids were not far behind it. Alarmed Carol when she looked at the damage to their Equinox. Dalton explained to her that he had been the victim of a deranged taxi driver who hated Uber competition. He assured Carol that the incident was being handled and that she might even see it on the news.
After the meeting with Carol, Dalton borrowed his parents' Black 2011 HHR, another Chevy crossover vehicle, and went back to work. His priority was to beat Carol back to their house. The Glock pistol had malfunctioned during the first shooting, so Dalton exchanged it for his Walter P 99, also a nine millimeter semi-auto.
Then he went right back to picking up Uber callers. Several of the passengers who rode with Dalton after 8:00 PM said they didn't notice anything unusual. Their driver seemed to be in a good mood. Sometimes he was chatty. Sometimes he hummed along to music.
Dalton searched as he drove. He found what he was looking for around 10:00 PM. 17-year-old Tyler Smith and his father had been used truck shopping for much of the day with Alexis, Tyler's high school girlfriend, along.
The Smith's, father and son, were looking for a truck that Tyler could drive for the family
plumbing business. At 10:00 PM the Happy group was making one of their last stops of the day to look at a blue Ford pickup on the lot at the Kia dealership. Alexis was bored with the search, so she stayed in the car.
As the father and son admired the truck, the black Chevy HHR parked nearby. Dalton approached them, said something that Alexis couldn't quite make out, and then he pulled a pistol and shot each of the Smiths several times. A witness who happened to be driving past said the shooter continued to fire even after both victims were down.
Alexis hid in the backseat of the car until after Dalton had pulled away. She found both Smiths unresponsive. Richard Smith had fallen partially, covering his son in an embrace as if trying to shield him. Alexis didn't have her phone, so she had to search Tyler's pockets before calling for help.
Four friends all over 60 met up for dinner and then a stage show. They brought 14-year-old Abigail Kopf with them. The plan was to eat dinner at Cracker Barrel south of Kalamazoo and then merge into one car for the show, leaving the other car parked in the restaurant lot. The evening had gone just as planned, and the ladies made it back to the second car a little after 10:00 PM.
Exhilarated by his recent kills, dalton fled from the Kia dealership as fast as he could. He was headed south, but he wasn't done hunting, so he scanned parking lots. At around 10: 30 he spotted activity in what should have been an empty Cracker barrel parking lot. He circled to get a closer look and liked what he saw.
It was four older women and a girl in two cars. Dalton approached the car with one woman inside and asked her if she could spare a dollar to make America great again. The woman said No. Dalton responded by shooting her in the head. The women in the other car screamed. Dalton turned his attention to that vehicle. Driver first, then methodically walking around the car, shooting all of the occupants.
Dalton fled into the night. This shooting location was close to home, so he went there and retrieved more nine-millimeter ammunition. He also considered taking one of his shotguns out for a spin. Fired it several times in the backyard, but decided against it. A neighbor would later say he thought it was odd that Dalton would shoot a weapon in his backyard at 11:00 PM.
After the resupply, Dalton hit the road and continued to pick up paying customers. He drifted downtown because that's where the action was. Late night Uber fares in Kalamazoo are mainly people moving between bars and restaurants to other bars or home or campus dorms or hotels.
Just after midnight, Dalton picked up three guys and took them to the dorms at Western Michigan University.
Around 12:15, Dalton picked up a group of four from a late dinner. By that time, the news of an active shooter was spreading across Kalamazoo. One of the men from the group asked Dalton if he had heard of the shootings. He had. Something in Dalton's response made the man jokingly ask Dalton if he was the shooter. Dalton, in a very not joking way, replied that it wasn't him.
The next fare at around 1230 was three guys moving between bars. By this time, the description of the shooter was filtering out from the scenes, and one of those guys jokingly asked Dalton if he was the shooter. He said he wasn't.
The second and third shootings lit a fire with law enforcement at the Kalamazoo and surrounding police departments. Six bodies, seven victims. An unusual event anywhere in the country, but particularly in a city that averages a little more than a dozen homicides annually.
As they broadcast information about the suspect and his car, police units across the metro area were on the lookout. Just before 12:40 PM Sergeant James Harrison was driving through downtown Kalamazoo. He was stopped at a red light when he spotted a black Chevy HHR leaving a parking lot.
The sergeant called for backup and initiated a traffic stop. A second sergeant arrived as the HHR pulled to the curb. Sergeant Harrison ordered the driver to put his hands out the window. The man complied and Harrison advanced, gun drawn. He put the driver into handcuffs without a struggle. During the pat down search, Sergeant Harrison discovered the driver was wearing a ballistic vest and carrying a nine-millimeter pistol in his jacket pocket.
For his part, the driver stared straight ahead, the entire time expressionless and saying nothing. It wasn't immediately clear that the driver that Sergeant Harrison had stopped was the shooting suspect. The man had remained quiet, maybe in shock. He didn't seem like a killer. They looked him up. He had no criminal convictions. He was an insurance adjuster and a part-time Uber driver.
Aside from the concealed pistol and the vehicle description, Dalton didn't seem to fit, but there was one thing the experienced officers noticed that gave them the confidence that they had the right guy. Dalton wasn't questioning them about why he was handcuffed in the back of a police car, nor was he denying involvement in the shootings.
The cops didn't have to wait long for affirmation. The crime scene teams at both murder sites had access to good quality surveillance video. At the Kia dealership, dalton could be clearly seen walking up to the father and son and shooting. Before leaving the scene, Dalton paused to inspect a black BMW that was for sale on the lot. It was basically the same scenario a few miles away at the Cracker Barrel. Dalton parked, walked up and with almost no delay, the shooting started. The videos answered two questions. Dalton was the shooter, and he intended to kill his targets.
Over several interviews with investigators, Dalton gave varying accounts of what happened. At first, he acted confused, as if he couldn't remember most of the time leading up to the shootings, but he made several incriminating comments.
He mentioned shooting the Smiths almost as a footnote to going to the Kia to look at a black BMW. Dalton said that while he was there, he shot a couple people. The only remorse Dalton expressed during the interviews was in saying that he shot a kid, that he was sorry.
In later interviews, he focused on a story that would make national headlines. The story Dalton finally settled on was that he had done all of the shootings after the Uber app had possessed him. The incredulous investigators asked their suspect for clarification. Dalton repeated the excuse. His memory about the events on February 20th was hazy, and the Uber app had possessed him. During this possession, his Uber app would display a devil's head and an Eastern Star symbol. It would then take over his body and do things like shoot people. Dalton described the experience as feeling like a puppet.
The excuse was so fantastic; the investigators were reluctant to talk about it. Instead, when asked, they said that although Dalton was semi cooperative; he wasn't giving answers that made sense.
Nailing down his medical status became a priority. It turned out that he wasn't on any medications and he had never been diagnosed with a mental illness. He denied any drug use.
At the time of the murders, dalton had been married to Carol for 20 years. They shared a 15-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Police contacted Carol shortly after the arrest. Carol expressed shock at the accusations. She said that her husband hadn't given any indication that he was capable of doing anything like this, nor had she known when he was planning. She said her husband was a gun hobbyist and had tried to become a police officer in the past, but that aspiration had fizzled, so he worked for years as an insurance adjuster.
Dalton had been driving Uber for about two weeks. They weren't financially in trouble as far as she knew. He just wanted to make extra money to pay for an upcoming vacation. Carol said her husband may have seemed a little depressed in recent days, but nothing unusual. She said the day of the shootings had seemed normal. In the afternoon, she and the kids had gone out to run some errands. Dalton had run errands of his own and then planned to do Uber driving.
Carol said that in the evening, Dalton had asked her to meet him at his parents' house because he needed to switch cars. Once she arrived, they talked about the damage to the Chevy Equinox in the garage. Dalton's explanation was that a taxi driver had attacked him.
He told her that he was dealing with the problem through the company and that they might still be in danger. Dalton told Carol to stay home from work and to keep the kids home from school. After the warning, Dalton took his parents' HHR and returned to work. Carol said the entire conversation had been strange, but she assumed her husband was dealing with the police and decided to let him handle the problem.
Detectives talked to Dalton's friends and work associates. Although all of them expressed surprise at what Dalton was being accused of and said he was usually gregarious. Some had seen him suddenly and unexpectedly lash out when angry or frustrated.
When police reached out to Macy, the caller who sent Dalton to Meadows Town Homes, Macy had some interesting information for them. Her boyfriend, whom she called the Uber for, never saw Dalton or his car, but he heard the shots when they were fired in front of the main building. About 30 minutes later, Dalton called Macy. She described the Uber driver as being extremely rude and angry. He told her that she had wasted his time and that she should never call him again.
As the investigations progressed, a remarkable story of survival was happening at the hospital. The first shooting victim, Tiana Carruthers, survived and was able to pick Dalton out of a photo lineup from her hospital bed.
14-year-old Abigail Kopf was shot in the head and was initially not expected to survive. Her parents had asked them to stop doing cpr. A doctor had called her time of death and staff had removed all the tubes. Then her body rebelled against what seemed inevitable. As mom bent to say goodbye, she felt Abigail's heart beating. Abigail would live. Over time, Abigail grew stronger, starting down the path of what would became long, painful recovery.
Five days after the shootings, Carol Dalton filed for divorce. Dalton's parents refused to see their son in jail and moved to Florida.
Dalton was arraigned on 16 charges, including six counts of murder, two counts of assault
with intent to commit murder, and eight counts of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. A judge appointed legal representation whose first move was to request psychological evaluations.
A few months later, Dalton was found to be competent. Despite the psychiatrist's assessments, Dalton's lawyers were determined to use the insanity defense. In one pretrial hearing, dalton appeared to be bolstering that defense when, as the first victim was about to testify, he stood up and began yelling nonsensically. He refused to be quiet and had to be dragged from the courtroom.
Dalton, against the advice of counsel, changed his plea to guilty on the eve of the murder trials on January 7th, 2019. On February 5th, 2019, they sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne, 62-year-old Mary Lu Nye, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nae, Dorothy Brown, 74, Richard Smith, 53, Tyler Smith, 17. And injuring Tiana Caruthers, 25, and Abigail Kopf, 14.
Marcy: As we begin the discussion about this case, I think one of the most important things to talk about is the why, the psychological part, but you actually wanna do that last, right?
Mark: Yeah. Let's talk about the police response and a little bit about the investigation first.
Marcy: Okay. One thing I saw when I was reviewing this case is that in the first police calls for reckless driving and hit and run, they were able to identify Dalton as the driver. Do you think that the police dropped the ball by not connecting those crime scenes and being onto him sooner?
Mark: Unfortunately, this is how a lot of crime sprees happen. They aren't all linked together. A small event, and then there's a bigger event, and maybe this, the descriptions don't come in perfect. So they're not linked up or different dispatchers bring 'em in and the descriptions aren't linked up. So it depends on how those things come in and who's listening to who, whether or not they're linked.
It started as a relatively small reckless driving hit and run. H and r is a fairly common occurrence in a city and one that could get investigated if you have enough information, a plate where, if somebody knows where the vehicle lives, this kind of thing. The bummer about this is that reckless driving wasn't connected to the first shooting.
Unfortunate thing here is that these were close based on geography and the time, so they could potentially be linked by somebody in dispatch. the driver on the reckless driving report was identified.
If that connection had been made with the Tiana Caruthers shooting, there could have been some immediate follow up even by patrol and nabbed the guy. And that, that could have been able to prevent the later shootings.
As far as Tiana Caruthers shooting that would've been solved I think eventually, even if it had been, just a standalone assault, it would've taken investigators time to connect those dots but I think there was enough information to find him.
Beyond, if it had been a standalone assault, of course, this whole thing would've eventually been tied together, even if Dalton had gone to ground after the multiple shootings or hadn't been arrested that night. There was plenty of information about the early crimes and, you go back and do cell phone tracking and the video surveillance to identify 'em and link them to all of those incidents.
But to answer the initial question, the only way this could have been prevented mid spree is if they had connected that initial reckless with the with the meadow shooting of Tiana Carruthers.
Marcy: And the making things more difficult, Dalton swapped cars. So even if there had been a bolo for that silver equinox, it was hidden in a garage and a different vehicle was involved.
Mark: When the link wasn't made between the reckless and the shooting, the ability to prevent the light later shootings was lost. From the outside looking in. It might seem like a long shot to make these kind of connections, especially in a busy dispatch center or as a patrol officer on the street.
But I can tell you those kinds of connections are made all the time by cops and dispatchers. And when that happens, somebody gets that obscure link or remembers that little piece that puts crimes together, it's a great feeling. Conversely, I'm sure when the truth about the reckless driving and the shooting came out, people were upset that it was missed. Because of what I just said. The two crimes were close in time and the descriptions and geographically.
Marcy: Boy, a favorite thing of a dispatcher is to be armchair detective and try to put all those clues together. I think if the shooting had happened first and the reckless driving had happened second, they would've been more likely to think about those as potentially being linked.
Mark: And you don't know what else was going on at the time.
It could have been a flood, it could have been a quiet time if it had been quiet and more likely to discover, but you just don't know what's going on at the time. Who's talking to who. It is true. I used to work closely with especially a dispatch supervisor, and they were always coming up with, Hey, what do you think about this link? This link? And there were amazing, shoestring catches by patrol officers who remembered this detail about this location. So it does happen. It's unfortunate that it didn't happen here,
Marcy: but you have been involved in stopping suspects immediately after really big crimes. Talk about a little bit of that.
Mark: Sometimes you're good and sometimes you're lucky. And often it's a little bit of both. What comes to mind is, I could be paying attention and recognize a car from briefing. And sometimes you can't miss it. I think of a car I found. It's a silver Mercedes coupe. And, I heard it in briefing and just okay, that's a nice car and I see it out by Spenard Road. And my first thought wasn't, Hey, that's the stolen car and the armed robbery spree. No. My first thought was, Hey, that's a nice car. And only thereafter wasn't the, that robbery spree a nice silver Mercedes coop? And then you get that little adrenaline bump. You call for backup and you do what you're trained to do. Then we caught those guys. And sometimes, before you can spot them, they start doing something crazy. Like they start jumping over curbs or, if they're on foot, they just look at you wide eye and start running.
And that gives them away. So sometimes, like I said, sometimes you're just lucky, not good. When that happens, you're you look at that guy and go. I don't know what he just did, but we're off to the races. We're gonna find out what that reaction was. There are other times when, for whatever reason, you stop a car; you jump out on a fight on the street and you take a guy into custody and you don't know what it's about, and you have just nabbed a guy who has done horrible things in the past, and luckily you got him into cuffs before anything it went bad. Those are the times that remind you to be careful because it's said a lot about traffic stops. All contacts are unknown risk because those people know what they did and you don't necessarily know what they did or how bad a person they are.
One of the last people I ever put into handcuffs on duty, I was working in plain clothes and he turned out to be a homicide suspect. I was working a task force. He was a, this guy was a target of our task force. And I didn't know at the time some of my guys were inside of a house doing a low-key type contact and all hell break loose. The fight started, and I heard them from outside. We had a wire going, and I rushed in and grabbed up the guy who was being the biggest pain in the ass. And I banged him on the ground, slapped the cuffs on him, and I didn't know until later who he was, and he was one of our targets.
Marcy: Someday we can tell the story of my one and only foot chase. A sergeant arrested Dalton, and you said you weren't surprised that it was a sergeant and that his backup was also a sergeant. You've talked about the magic of how sergeants always tend to seem in the right place at the right time when you were on patrol.
Mark: I was talking about my night shift. A lot of stuff happens on night shift, and there's a lot of reasons you can get around easier because there's, less traffic except on real, real busy weekend nights in certain areas of town. But I'm quoting one of my sergeants here. The drunks are drunker. The fights are more brutal. The crimes are more serious. And while that's not always true when I was on nights and we called it mid-shift, some police departments call it first watch. There's a sense that anything can happen and often did.
There, like I said, the nice thing about it is you don't have the normal pack, like evening or afternoon traffic that days and swings do so you often have the added benefit of actually being able to single out of vehicle, maybe a suspect fleeing vehicle and in this case the HHR. If it had been rush hour traffic, it might have been hidden.
It might, it would've taken longer to spot.
Marcy: What about the sergeant thing?
Mark: For years I worked on an area car on patrol and it amazed me how often the street sergeants would be very close to major calls as they were going.. And it wasn't until I became a sergeant myself that I realized the secret it wasn't magic.
First, unlike area cars, sergeants aren't always outta their vehicles on calls. As a sergeant, you don't have to run back to your car when something big is coming in. So they're always mobile, they're usually in their car. Second, as a supervisor, I was regularly on the phone with the dispatch supervisor and we would discuss calls that were holding or significant things that are coming in. We could not dispatch a serious call until there were two units, a car and a backup car to be sent. Sometimes big calls would hold a little bit until officers could be broken from other calls. And that delay and knowing about the delay would allow me time to move towards that incident. I could be close even before it was dispatched. So it wasn't magic. I just had a head start. I caught a lot of bad guys as a street sergeant because of that.
In this case, I'm not at all surprised that the suspect was spotted by one street sergeant and the available backup was a second sergeant.
Marcy: Are you surprised he started the traffic stop without his backup already being with him?
Mark: Who knows? Maybe he knew there was another available car close. I can tell you that me operating solo, if I knew there were people available close, I would've started the process then. If not, I would've called for people and waited, maybe followed this guy a few blocks till I got people with me.
The other thing is, keep in mind that at that time they probably had somewhat limited suspect vehicle information. They do was a black SUV. maybe they had a make, maybe not. You don't know this is the guy. There's a lot of black SUVs out there.
So you tend to take things as they go. In, in basically in making a stop like this, you really don't know it's your guy. I'm definitely not making that stop on a match plate until I had people with me. Maybe people set up down range with spike strips, this kind of thing so we could catch this guy.
And if it, if we had a match and I knew it was the guy, I'd really expect a much more structured felony stop. But like I said, you don't know, there's a lot of black SUVs out there and you're pretty much just checking.
The other thing I can tell you in this case, I would not have approached the vehicle, ordered him with his hands out. I would've done this stop differently. Even if I didn't know it's the guy, I'm gonna get him out of the car, full spotlight on him, hands up, turn around, watch for his compliance, because a lot of these guys, if they're gonna be not compliant, it's gonna be right up front there.
You're gonna know this guy's not gonna be cooperative and the danger's up, right? So I would've had him step out, hands up, turn around, walk backwards, and at that point, that way I don't have to cross that no man's land, open space. I don't have to go up to his car to find out if he's gonna shoot me or a lot of times they don't shoot. They just freaking put their the accelerator down and drive away, and then you gotta run back to your car. So that's what I would've done in this. He made a different choice. At the same time, had he gotten out cooperative, this is not a situation where we had done full felony stop.
He gets out cooperative. I'm probably not gonna prone that guy out in the street and I'm gonna bring him back, maybe handcuff him if he matches the suspect description and talk with him. So that's how that would've gone differently if I had been doing it.
Marcy: Dalton told the detectives that he didn't shoot it out with the cops because the Uber app didn't make him do it that way.
What's your take on that?
Mark: Yeah, I've thought about this. Think back to all the mass shootings we've had in the past few years. There are a few suspects who do shoot it out and are killed by police and unfortunately kill police officers or injure police officers. But most either kill themselves when confronted with armed resistance or they give up.
I'm amazed at how many people shoot up. Killing maiming, 20 people or more. And then just give up when the cops get there. Over the years I've been involved with cases and stuff and have heard that this guy says he's never gonna be taken alive.
I won't be taken alive. Those guys most often go quietly into handcuffs when the time comes. It's not to say there aren't people who carry, that sentiment to ex the extreme. It's just rare and talk is cheap. It's the difference between bravado and a deeply held conviction.
My take on why these shooters often give up when confronted with armed resistance is that they've seen what the bullets are doing, the ones that they're firing to the human body, and when presented with the reality that's about to happen to them, they choose prison.
Marcy: Why is it significant that Dalton wasn't asking any questions about why he was being detained?
Mark: A lot of experienced cops would notice this. And I remember, in my street time, you get a feel for what's normal. Keep in mind Dalton knows what he's done. He's probably freaking out inside.
So he knows what he's done, and he doesn't think it's odd. I've been arrested. I've just shot a bunch of people. So he's telegraphing that he's telegraphing that he almost expects to be arrested., cops are used to people that they detain, handcuff acting in a certain way.
There is a broad range of normal responses, anger, hysteria, but certain things stick out as unusual to be handcuffed and put in the back of a police car and not be asking why, what's going on? That's unusual.
Marcy: Let's talk about the why. We know why Dalton said he did it. What do you think? Was it a psychotic break?
Mark: I don't think so. Some of his decisions seem suddenly irrational, but I think it's important to see what steps he took to secretly prepare for his crimes. What he did to hide his crimes and what he did, to avoid being caught.
He did what he did because he knew what he was doing was wrong. And I think the psych signs of psychotic break would've been noticed by friends, family, people around him. Other people, I think, who have had psychotic breaks they do things that are really weird. I think of the; I think I brought this up on another case, a mom who killed three of her children in a succession and promptly went down to the payphone and told the police that she had saved them from demons.
I think based on what Dalton did; he was stressed out and angry. But he planned, he supplied himself and he avoided trying to be caught.
Marcy: Do you have a theory about why he committed the spree?
Mark: Yeah, that's, it's what I wrote in the narrative. I think there are clues that he had anger management issues. His associates basically noticed that he could he was usually an affable guy, but that even in low-level situations he could flip out because of frustration.
The other thing that's interesting to me that he wanted to be a police officer. He graduated college educated guy, but was never picked up, even after he did some volunteering as a police volunteer, but was never picked up. That tells me they saw something in him that they didn't like.
Something maybe about his demeanor, how he dealt with people, maybe how he dealt with police officers and others. Maybe how he reacted under stress. Police work isn't for everybody. And the places that'll pay well enough. Usually in some of the middle and larger cities, the places that pay well enough to attract quality applicants have the benefit of being very selective.
And some are highly selective. That's not to say that every police officer goes through a stringent hiring process is perfect for the job. But a large applicant pool with stringent testing that includes, psychological evaluation, polygraph thorough background, checks those get you a better quality of applicant better than the good old boy hiring process that we see in some parts of the country.
But Dalton, on paper, should have been a good police candidate. He was a homeboy right from there, college graduate, right from there. But he was weeded out for some reason, and I think probably was the inability to deal with stress. When I read this guy's the account of what this guy did, I think of the 1980s movie falling down where Michael Douglas who played a guy who was like a professional wearing a button-down shirt and a tie in suit.
Who just has experience after experiences negative modern day man experiences? And he couldn't deal with the stress of the modern world and just breaks and goes off on people. When I think of Dalton, maybe for the first time, really having to deal with serving the public, rude people, inconsiderate customers, people that are wasting his time.
And I think, I think this is what happened.
Marcy: You think the whole the Uber app made me do it is made up?
Mark: Yeah. I think the Uber app for him was an effort to do what many suspects do during interrogation process. They try to make it not their fault. When asked for an excuse, he can't say, I get off on the thrill of dominating people by killing them. That would make him a monster. So there has to be an excuse. At some level, his off-ramp was to blame Uber for what he had done.
It makes me think of David Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam. Berkowitz used to roam neighborhoods in New York City looking for men and women who were making out in cars.
He started as a voyeur and later began shooting people, and he killed several. When he was caught, the son of Sam it was a big publicity at the time. He used the excuse that his neighbor's dog was a demon that possessed him and forced him to kill these people. And this, at the time, was a sensational excuse.
Years after Son Sam was in prison. Two well known FBI agents went and interviewed him, and they got him to admit that the dog story was bullshit. He just couldn't say that he got a sexual thrill from the shootings. It turned out that he regularly returned to his murder scenes to masturbate.
Marcy: So you think that Dalton's Uber app is basically Berkowitz's dog?
Mark: Exactly. In the first evidentiary hearing, they get right up to the first eyewitness victim is about to testify, and he flips out right to the point. He's gotta be drugged from the courtroom. That's not crazy. That's, he doesn't want to hear shit.
It's a lot like I've told you before, the guys who are like child porn suspects, they go right up to trial and chicken out because they don't want anybody to see or hear what they did. And that's what this guy did. That's not crazy. That's fucking, he's got some shame about him, right?
Marcy: You mentioned like a scary, funny story about a couple of his later Uber passengers.
Mark: Yeah, I think in the investigation part. I mentioned four people got into his car that was actually a husband and wife. The husband was an Indianapolis lawyer and her parents, so his in-laws. And so they called for an Uber. And at this point the what was happening with the shootings was getting out and there was like a partial description.
And as the Uber was arriving, the wife, knowing that her husband was a smartass, told him, don't mention the shooting, just don't mention it. And he's.. Okay, whatever. So he gets in the car and what do you think happened?
Marcy: He mentioned it right away.
Mark: What do you think? Yes, of course, that's what I would do. Yeah. I thought of us. So he gets in the car and turns to Dalton and jokingly says, you know, about the shooting, and Dalton says yes. And he says you're not the shooter, are you? And Dalton says, no, that's crazy, right? He delivers them to their hotel and later they're interviewed about their ride with him earlier and find out that he was actually the shooter.
I think that would come up for the rest of our lives. You'd say to me why don't you tell the story about the time you almost got me and my mom and dad killed by the Uber driver killer. It's like the perfect, am I the asshole letter.
Marcy: A lot was made about Uber driver vetting. Do you think anything could have been done to head this situation off?
Mark: I don't think so. I think a lot of people are really like, how can we avoid this? So this could never happen to me. And this is a situation where he is just not the kind of candidate you're going to weed out.
You'd really have to psych test and screen to a very high standard. I think such a high standard that I don't think the company could function and actually hire people if they did that. Think about it. Dalton had no prior history and particularly no, no prior violent history. He had a college education.
He was a family man. longtime employment in the insurance industry, and presumably more financially stable than most of his Uber driving peers. So I don't think there's any way you could say, you could reasonably say, Hey, if we just had tighter scrutiny, we'd we'd that guy out because he's almost a perfect candidate to work as an Uber driver from the outside, right?
Obviously, he's got a lot of stuff going on inside. But I don't think you're gonna be able to screen that guy out unless until something happens.
Marcy: Barbara Hawthorne pushed 14-year-old Abigail Kopf down in the car in that parking lot of Cracker Barrel, possibly saving her. As the 68-year-old was dying, she was able to give police needed information so they could contact Abigail's parents. Abigail took months to get out of the hospital. She is missing the right frontal lobe of her brain and most of her skull on that side.
She has no memory of the shooting. She can walk, talk, eat, and go to school. Things her brain surgeon told her parents she would never be able to do. She wants a career working with animals.
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