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Kalamazoo shooting suspect fit for trial; no plea deal planned

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) – The man charged with shooting eight people in the Kalamazoo area, killing six of them is competent to stand trial.

Jason Dalton entered the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and chains around 11:24 a.m. Friday. It was the first time he’s walked into a courtroom since the Feb. 20 shootings. Dalton’s hair was markedly more gray since his arraignment two months earlier.

Judge Tiffany Ankley accepted the recommendation from Jason Dalton’s psychological exam during Friday’s hearing, which lasted about six minutes. Although the judge ruled Dalton fit to stand trial, defense lawyers can still enter a not guilty by reason of insanity plea for Dalton.

Dalton faces 16 criminal counts in connection to the Feb. 20 shooting that Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and father and son Rich and Tyler Smith. Widow Laurie Smith and other relatives filled the courtroom for Friday’s hearing. The family broke down crying after Dalton left the court.

Dalton is also charged with shooting 14-year-old Abbie Kopf and 25-year-old Tiana Carruthers multiple times. Both are still recovering.

In a news conference shortly after the hearing, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said he will not be offering a plea deal in the case.

According to police reports, 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 the report.

Dalton 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 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.

Thursday, the parents of Abbie said they agree with the psychological evaluation’s findings.

“I would like him to spend the rest of his life thinking about every one of the people that he put a bullet in,” said Vickie Kopf. “And who he killed and how he turned their lives and their families’ lives completely upside down.”

“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,” said Abbie’s father, Gene Kopf.

Dalton’s next court hearing, a preliminary exam, is scheduled for May 20.

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