GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An Indianapolis-area man visiting Kalamazoo Saturday night with his family said he ordered an Uber ride because he had heard there was someone shooting people randomly around town. But he had no idea his decision would bring him face-to-face with suspected killer Jason Dalton just minutes before Dalton was arrested.
The man — who asked to be identified only by his first name, Derek — was in town with his wife and mother- and father-in-law last night. The four had taken in a show and were at a Bell’s Eccentric Cafe on Porter Street when someone at the bar told them to be careful because there was a killer on the loose.
By that time, six people had been killed and two more gravely wounded at three separate locations in Richland Township, Kalamazoo and Texas Township.
Deciding it was safer to drive then walk, Derek ordered an Uber. His driver, Jason, in a dark-colored HHR, soon arrived. The family piled in. Derek in the front seat with his wife and in-laws in the back seat.
“My father mentioned from the back seat, you know, the situation with the shooter,” Derek told 24 Hour News 8 in phone interview from his Indy home. “I kind of jokingly said to the driver, ‘You’re not the shooter, are you?’ He gave me some sort of a ‘no’ response… shook his head…
“I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m just tired,’” Derek continued. “And we proceeded to have a pretty normal conversation after that.”
The ride from Porter to the Radisson Hotel on Portage Street was only about a mile and a half and lasted a total of 7 minutes.
Derek said he didn’t smell gunpowder, didn’t notice any weapons or stains and said Dalton appeared to be calm and quiet.
When Dalton and his fares arrived at the Radisson, there were two police officers in the lobby. Their cruisers were plainly visible in the pull-through drive.
“There’s no way he wouldn’t have not seen the presence of police,” Derek said.
Derek said the driver let them out and calmly drove off at 12:19 a.m.
Dalton was arrested less than 20 minutes later back on Porter. He’s expected to be in court Monday to be formally charged with murder.
Derek said that looking back, Dalton’s response to his joke about being the killer was odd. He and his family didn’t realize the possibility they could have just received a ride with a suspected killer until they were safely in their hotel room when they turned on the news and saw the suspect’s vehicle description.
But they didn’t know for certain their driver was the suspected killer until they saw his picture Sunday morning.
“It was the same guy,” Derek said.
Derek provided 24 Hour News 8 with his Uber receipt. He said he has already spoken with detectives.
He’s working to come to grips with what he’s experienced.
“It’s a little jarring. I don’t think that it’s really set in yet,” Derek said.