KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The results of a psychological evaluation show that Kalamazoo shooting rampage suspect Jason Dalton is competent to stand trial, Michigan State Police say.
MSP 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen confirmed the results of the exam Wednesday night.
A judge will decide whether to accept the exam’s competency recommendation. Dalton is due in court Friday for an update on that exam.
Dalton, 45, of Cooper Township, faces 16 criminal charges in connection to the Feb. 20 shooting spree that spanned three locations in the Kalamazoo area, including six counts of murder and two of attempted murder.
The parents of the 14-year-old girl who was seriously wounded in the shooting spree said they agree with the evaluation’s findings and hope the judge does, too.
“I would like him to spend the rest of his life thinking about every one of the people that he put a bullet in,” Vickie Kopf, the mother of shooting survivor Abigail Kopf, told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday. “And who he killed and how he turned their lives and their families’ lives completely upside down.”
Competency means that a psychiatric expert determined that Dalton understands the charges against him and can assist in his own defense. It does not mean that he cannot ultimately pursue an insanity defense.
“What type of cage he eventually he’s determined to be in, as locked up for the rest of his life, I don’t care,” Gene Kopf, Abbie’s father, said.
His wife disagreed, saying Dalton should go to prison.
“I think being in a mental institution is a little too easy,” Vickie Kopf said.
The Kopfs said they will not be at his Friday court appearance, saying seeing him in person would bring up too much anger.
Father and son Rich and Tyler Smith, Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Judy Brown and Barbara Hawthorne were killed in the spree.
Abbie Kopf with the four women when they were shot at the Texas Township Cracker Barrel. She survived a gunshot wound the head and returned home from the hospital on Wednesday. Tiana Carruthers, 25, was the first person shot that day at the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township. She sustained multiple gunshot wounds and is still recovering.
“There’s two beautiful people who are fighting to get back to somewhat normal,” Vickie Kopf said Thursday. “They will never be whole, they will never be normal, but they will get to somewhere. And they will have to have peace through all this.”
According to police reports released to 24 Hour News 8 in March, 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 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.”
When being questioned separately by MSP, Dalton said his Uber app wouldn’t shut off and had kept him awake for more than 24 hours, periodically “flash(ing) at him really hard.” He said “something had come into his car” and “made itself know by making a loud tone.” He said it was like his vehicle was talking to him and “he felt like he was on fire.” He said that as he encountered people on the night of the shootings, his phone would ding at him. The number of dings indicated whether he should open fire, he said.
Dalton also told KDPS his memory of the shootings was spotty. According to the reports, he said he didn’t remember killing the Smiths at a Kalamazoo car dealership and that he couldn’t remember actually pulling the trigger at the Cracker Barrel, though he did remember hearing the “pop, pop, pop of the gun.”
During the interrogation by MSP, Dalton said he remembered emptying an entire clip at the townhomes where Carruthers was shot. He said that the gun jammed, he cleared it and then kept shooting. He also said he emptied an entire magazine at the scene where the Smiths were shot.
In that interrogation, he said he felt remorse for his actions.