Kalamazoo shooter to plead insanity

KALAMAZOO, Michigan — A Hancock County native accused of killing six people in a shooting rampage in Michigan earlier this year is expected to plead insanity in his defense, according to national reports.

Jason Dalton, 45, a former Charlottesville resident and student at Eastern Hancock Schools, faces charges of murder and attempted murder in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, after opening fire on strangers between picking up riders as an Uber driver in February, police said.

This week, Dalton’s attorney told a Michigan judge he plans to file a notice of intent to use the insanity defense, the prosecutor announced at a news conference, according to The Associated Press.

“It wasn’t a surprise at all,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said. “This is where I expected the case to go from the very beginning.”

The shootings happened Feb. 20. Eight people were shot, including a 14-year-old girl, in three locations in the Kalamazoo area. Six people died.

Eusebio Solis, Dalton’s lawyer, is expected to file the insanity defense notice in the next week, Getting said.

Once the notice is filed, a judge will order the state’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry to perform a psychiatric evaluation of Dalton within 60 days.

Dalton grew up in Charlottesville and attended Eastern Hancock middle and high school in the 1980s, school officials told the Daily Reporter after the man’s arrest.

Dalton’s mental state has been questioned throughout the case, reports indicate.

Dalton told police a “devil figure” on his Uber app was controlling him on the night of the shootings, reports state.

According to a police report, Dalton told authorities that “it feels like it is coming from the phone itself” and that the “devil figure … would give you an assignment, and it would literally take over your whole body.”

The state’s forensic center already has determined Dalton is able to understand the charges against him and assist his lawyers at trial. He was ordered to stand trial, and there have been attempts at a plea agreement, officials said.

Late last month, Dalton was dragged from a courtroom after an outburst in which he shouted about people with “black bags,” stalling a victim’s testimony during a hearing.

Defense attorneys will try to demonstrate that Dalton was legally insane at the time of the shootings, Getting said.

“This will be focused on Mr. Dalton’s actions on the night of Feb. 20, 2016,” Getting said. “The questions will be whether or not he was mentally ill, and if so, whether, as a result of that illness, he was able to substantially conform his conduct to the law, or if he was unable to understand the wrongfulness of his actions.”

“We know that he didn’t have any diagnosed mental illness prior to this incident,” Getting said.

Dalton’s trial could start sometime this fall.