Michigan shooting suspect to undergo psychiatric evaluation

Posted at 8:43 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 22:43:28-05

By Jason Hanna and Ray Sanchez


(CNN) — Jason Brian Dalton will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his competence to stand trial for the shooting deaths of six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Dalton is accused of killing six people and injuring two others in a rampage in the western Michigan city over a five-hour period on February 20.

Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting said the evaluation was ordered by a judge at the request of Dalton’s lawyer, Eusebio Solis, during a probable cause conference Thursday.

Solis could be not reached for comment.

Dalton, 45, is charged with six counts of murder. Police have said he does not have a history of mental health issues.

Getting said the evaluation will be conducted within 60 days. The purpose is to determine whether a defendant understands “the nature and object of the court proceeding” and is able to assist in his own defense.

“This is not a determination to see if he was legally insane,” Getting told reporters.

The prosecutor reiterated that investigators don’t have any information that Dalton has a history of mental illness.

Investigators — who are reviewing the contents of Dalton’s cell phone and other evidence — have not determined a motive for the rampage, Getting said.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley told CNN last week that Dalton legally bought the 9mm handgun he allegedly used in the shootings, though he did not have a concealed pistol license.

Dalton, as a new driver for Uber, picked up fares between the shootings, police said. He had started driving for Uber only two days before the shootings, Hadley said last month.

The shootings

Police said they believe Dalton shot people at random over a five-hour period, firing first from one vehicle and, after going home and switching cars, from another.

Dalton shot his first victim, Tiana Carruthers, at a playground in front of her children, police said. Carruthers survived.

Dalton then killed Richard Smith, 53, and his son Tyler, 17, at a car dealership, police said.

Police said Dalton committed the last shooting in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, killing Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; Mary Lou Nye, 62; and Mary Jo Nye, 60.

Abigail Kopf, a 14-year-old girl who was in the passenger seat of one of the women’s vehicles, also was struck but survived and was in fair condition at a hospital earlier this week, according to a Go Fund Me page set up by a family friend.

Doctors initially thought Abigail would not survive, and she initially was kept on life support so her organs could be donated. But her condition rebounded after her mother reported that, while she was holding Abigail’s hand, Abigail suddenly squeezed back.

Two hours after the final shooting, police arrested Dalton without incident in downtown Kalamazoo and also seized a weapon from his car, authorities said.

Uber passenger: Dalton drove erratically before shooting

One of Dalton’s Uber passengers on the day of the shootings — but before the bloodshed started — told CNN that Dalton started behaving erratically after receiving a phone call in the car.

Dalton received the call roughly a mile into the trip, Matt Mellen told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.” Mellen heard Dalton tell the caller that he had a rider at the moment and would call back after dropping the passenger off.

Dalton hung up and then started driving erratically, Mellen said.

Dalton ran red lights, squealed the tires and nearly sideswiped another vehicle, Mellen said.

Mellen pleaded for the driver to stop and let him get out, but he initially refused. Once Dalton slammed on the brakes, Mellen jumped out of the car and called police, he said.

CNN’s Jason Hanna, Nick Valencia, Mariano Castillo, Holly Yan and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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