Undersheriff: Lawsuit against Uber by Dalton hoax

Jason Dalton is accused of shooting 8 people in the Kalamazoo area, killing 6

Jason Dalton Kalamazoo shootings
Jason Dalton is arraigned on Feb. 22, 2016.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The federal lawsuit against Uber allegedly filed by the man accused of shooting eight people in the Kalamazoo area last month, killing six of them, has been determined to be a hoax.

Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Pali Matyas told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday that Jason Dalton did not authorize or send the lawsuit. It is unknown who sent the lawsuit but the envelope was postmarked Philadelphia.

“To let you know, the Dalton lawsuit was a hoax. I was suspicious last night when I saw the envelope the lawsuit came in was postmarked Philadelphia. We investigated and Dalton did not send it, did not authorize it and does not know who sent it. Further it was not his handwriting and it is not a jail envelope,” said Matyas in an email Thursday to 24 Hour News 8.

Thursday, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department contacted the FBI with the information they have to assist in any possible investigation into who filed the fake lawsuit.

In a handwritten note obtained by 24 Hour News 8 through federal court records, the writer alleging to be Dalton demanded “$10 million dollars in punitive damages and emotional distress” from Uber Technologies, Inc.

>>PDF: Bogus lawsuit against Uber

In the suit, the writer claimed Dalton worked for years as a contracted driver for Uber, though the company has said Dalton was approved to drive only in late January. He apparently picked up Uber fares between shootings at three Kalamazoo-area locations on Feb. 20, but did not hurt any of his passengers.

The fake lawsuit was mailed to U.S. District Court in Detroit and filed Tuesday. The writer alleging to be Dalton says he was mistreated by Uber, that the company would call him late at night and “make me work or say I was fired.”

Uber doesn’t set its drivers’ schedules; drivers decide for themselves when and how long to work. The company touts that as being one appeal of being a driver, saying on its website, “You’ll never have to choose between earning a living and living a life.”

Dalton faces 16 criminal charges in connection to the shooting rampage, including six counts of murder for the deaths of Tyler Smith, Rich Smith, Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Barbara Hawthorne and Judy Brown, and two counts of attempted murder for shooting and wounding Tiana Carruthers and 14-year-old Abigail Kopf.

Top, left to right: Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.
Top, left to right: Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.

According to police reports released to 24 Hour News 8 on Monday, Dalton told the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety that he started shooting after a “devil” in his Uber app took over his body.

He said he “recognized the Uber symbol as being that of the Eastern Star and a devil head popped up on his screen and when he pressed the button on the app, that is when all the problems started,” police in wrote in a report. Dalton said that figure was a “horned cow head or something like that and then it would give you an assignment and it would literally take over your whole body.”

Dalton also told KDPS his memory of the shootings was spotty. According to the reports, he said he didn’t remember killing Rich Smith and his son Tyler at a Kalamazoo car dealership and that he couldn’t remember actually pulling the trigger at the Cracker Barrel in Texas Township — the bloodiest of the spree’s three scenes — though he did remember hearing the “pop, pop, pop of the gun.”

Dalton became an Uber driver to make money to take his family on vacation to Disney World, his wife’s attorney has said. Uber says Dalton passed a background check before he became a diver. He does not have a criminal history or history of mental health problems. Uber says it did not receive complaints against him prior to Feb. 20.

>>PDF: Uber safety overview courtesy the company

Dalton is undergoing a mental evaluation to determine if he is fit to stand trial.


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