KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man charged with killing six strangers between picking up rides for Uber pleaded guilty to murder on Monday, just before attorneys were set to interview jurors for his trial.
Jason Dalton’s surprise decision came more than three years after the shootings, which occurred over the course a few hours in and around Kalamazoo. Dalton pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder over his attorney’s objections, triggering a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance for parole.
“I’ve wanted to do this for quite a while,” Dalton told a judge.
After his arrest, police quoted Dalton as saying a “devil figure” on Uber’s app was controlling him on the day of the shootings. He was found competent to stand trial and last week dropped his insanity defense.
The 48-year-old Dalton answered “yes” to a series of questions on Monday, admitting that he had shot eight people at three different places. Four women were killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, and a man and his 17-year-old son were fatally shot while looking at cars in a dealer’s lot.
A girl who was 14 at the time was shot in the head during the restaurant shooting but survived. Another woman was injured in a residential area.
The defense attorney Eusebio Solis said he had advised Dalton not to plead guilty. But he said his client wanted to spare families more grief during a trial.
“I’ve been practicing law for 30 years and have never pleaded to life in prison without parole,” Solis said outside court.
Dalton, the father of two children, had worked as an insurance adjuster and had no previous criminal record.
A gun shop owner said that Dalton, just hours before the rampage, had bought a jacket with an inside pocket designed to hold a gun. The owner recalled that Dalton was “laughing and joking,” and giving a “one-armed hug” to the manager before making the purchase.