A US Uber driver is facing life in prison after admitting to slaughtering six strangers in a surprise confession on Monday, right before a jury was set to be chosen for his trial.
Jason Dalton pleaded guilty to going on a 2016 shooting spree in Michigan, which saw him kill six people and injure two others, between transporting passengers through the rideshare app.
The seemingly random shootings occurred over the course of a few hours at an apartment complex, car dealership and outside a restaurant in the Kalamazoo area.
Despite his lawyer’s objections, the 45-year-old pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder, resulting in a mandatory sentence of line in prison with no chance of parole.
“Yes, I’ve wanted this for quite a while,” Dalton replied when a judge asked if the pleas were voluntary.
The Uber driver had previously stated that he was being controlled by a “devil figure” on the rideshare app on the day of the killings.
Four women were killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant: Barbara Hawthorne, Dorothy “Judy” Brown, Mary Lou Nye and her sister-in-law, Mary Jo Nye.
Rich Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were fatally shot while looking at a pick-up truck in a dealer’s lot.
Abigail Kopf, who was 14 at the time, was shot in the head during the restaurant shooting and survived. Tiana Carruthers was injured in a residential area.
Dalton had been deemed competent to stand trial and last week dropped an insanity defence.
The father-of-two had no precious criminal record before the February 2016 shootings and did not try to explain why he shot eight strangers.
Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the motive behind the shootings is a question that “haunts us.” “Everybody wants to know,” he said during a news conference after the court hearing.
Defence lawyer Eusebio Solis said he advised Dalton not to plead guilty. “But in speaking to Mr Dalton, there are reasons” for the plea, Solis told Judge Alexander Lipsey.
“There are personal reasons for him. He does not want to put his family through that, or the victims’ families, through the trial. It’s his decision.”
Just hours before the deadly rampage, Dalton reportedly bought a jacket with an inside pocket designed to hold a gun.
Gun shop owner Jon Southwick recalled Dalton “laughing and joking,” and giving a “one-armed hug” to the manager before making the purchase.
Dalton’s relatives and former wife released a statement, expressing condolences to the victims and their families for “this senseless tragedy.”
“Nothing that we can say is adequate, but please know that our hearts are broken by the suffering which has resulted from the actions of our son and former husband,” the statement said.
Dalton’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 5.