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He’d spent most of that Saturday outside, until his girlfriend, Maci, messaged him, asking if he wanted to come hang out at her place in downtown Kalamazoo. (It was her name on the Uber account and, subsequent events would suggest, she was the passenger Dalton thought he was picking up.)“He was like, ‘Hey, I’m lost, can you help me out? “So I gave him directions.” Then, she said, he went silent for about ten minutes. She didn’t realize he was there for De Allen, or she would have said something, but she did notice how on edge he seemed: “He was really aggressive.He’s sitting kind of by the trash can and as I’m coming forward he’s, like, a crazy look in his eye, and as I’m approaching, he stepped on the gas and almost runs into me.Around the time when he headed back onto the Kalamazoo streets, Dalton also called his wife. He spoke only one substantive sentence, after the judge asked if he had anything to say. But the fact that nobody could say for sure why this had happened hardly stopped people.He wanted to swap his damaged car with a Hummer they owned, but that was parked at his parents’ house (they were away for the winter in Florida) and his wife had the keys. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the Internet has given everyone the means to fill it.Mellen was headed from the edge of downtown Kalamazoo to a friend’s house to pick up his car, which he’d left there after a birthday party the previous night. For a while, the popular assumption was that the caller must have been his wife: Their relationship must’ve been failing, and an incendiary moment must have enraged him.And as it turned out, the call did indeed come from her phone—but it wasn’t Carole on the line, it was their son. ’ ” Black called 911, describing the silver Chevy SUV, and an Uber driver throwing out a passenger, but she didn’t feel they grasped the extremity of what she’d seen. “They said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll report that.’ They sounded like they didn’t even believe me.”Mellen also called 911 as he headed down the road to retrieve his car.
It was right then, as he looped one more time around the Meadows, that he spotted a 25-year-old woman who was leading five young children, including her daughter, across the grass to the playground.And the person doing the shooting would turn out to be an Uber driver named Jason Dalton. It’s never a sufficient explanation, of course, but generally, within a day or two, we learn of some kind of motive or circumstance that acted as a trigger.As different as one mass shooting may be from another, we have become primed to expect certain patterns. Whether radical Islam, anti-cop vengeance, suicidal depression, or virulent misogyny, an explanation swiftly emerges to help us understand.The Daltons were doing fine, but he liked the idea of making some extra money. It looked like another ordinary day in the life of an ordinary man in an ordinary part of America.
Except that on this day, for reasons that Jason Dalton would later struggle to explain, Kalamazoo would be terrorized by a man driving around town and shooting people, apparently at random.
He sped into an oncoming-traffic lane, blew through a stop sign, and violently sideswiped a Ford Taurus. “And he was, ‘Well, don’t you need a ride to your friend’s house? When he arrived, he went inside and drank a glass of water, then went down to the basement and prepared his guns, filling up the magazines.