An Uber driver who claimed the app was controlling him has pleaded guilty to murdering six strangers in between rides, admitting to the crimes even in the absence of a plea deal. He now faces life in prison without parole.
Jason Dalton pled guilty to murder, attempted murder, and firearms charges on Monday, surprising a Kalamazoo court three days into the trial and acting against his lawyer’s advice. With no deal on the table, he will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He claimed he wished to spare the victims’ families the agony of a trial, telling a judge “I’ve wanted to do this for quite a while.”
Dalton shot eight people at three locations in Kalamazoo, Michigan in February 2016, killing four women, a man, and a 17-year-old boy in between picking up and dropping off Uber passengers. Two more young women survived. Police said he chose his victims at random.
A “devil figure” on the Uber app was controlling him during the shootings, he told police after he was arrested, but he was forced to drop the insanity defense after a psychiatric evaluation found him competent to stand trial on Friday.
Dalton’s motives remain a mystery. Uber admitted they received complaints about his driving, though they would not disclose whether they spoke to him as company policy mandates upon receiving reports of an unsafe driver. One passenger even reported him to the police for his reckless driving an hour before the first shooting, when Dalton began speeding, clipping other cars, and running stop signs after receiving a mysterious phone call. The passenger even posted a warning to other Uber users on Facebook to avoid the eccentric driver who introduced himself as “MeMe” and kept a dog in the backseat.
A former insurance adjuster, Dalton passed a background check and began driving for Uber in January 2016. He gave about 100 rides over the next month before embarking on the murder spree, according to Uber. Dalton, a father of two, reportedly began driving for the company to save up for a trip to Disneyworld.
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