Kalamazoo shooting suspect sues Uber for $10M

(WOOD Photo)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of shooting eight people in the Kalamazoo area last month, killing six of them, has filed a federal lawsuit against Uber, saying the ride-hailing app “ruined” his life and is the reason he’s behind bars.

In a handwritten note, Jason Dalton demands “$10 million dollars in punitive damages and emotional distress” from Uber Technologies, Inc.

“I am currently in prison because of Uber,” the note reads in part. “My life is ruined because of Uber. My wife is divorcing me because of Uber … I have psychological damage because of Uber.”

In his suit, Dalton claims he worked for years as a contracted driver for Uber, though the company has said he 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 didn’t hurt any of his passengers.

Dalton’s suit was mailed to U.S. District Court in Detroit from the Kalamazoo County Jail on Friday and filed Tuesday. In it, Dalton says he was mistreated by Uber, that the company “ripped me off, never paid me back wages or overtime,” and didn’t give him a Christmas bonus or invite him to “corporate parties.”

“I busted my butt for them,” Dalton says in the suit. “They made me work when I was sick and didn’t let me spend time with my 2 children. Uber treats their drivers like crap.”

Dalton complains he had to pay his own gas and that Uber wouldn’t fix his car when it was damaged by potholes. He alleges Uber would call him late at night and “make me work or say I was fired.”

“This company is a hostile workplace environment. I am tired of being treated [like] a 2nd class citizen by Uber,” the note continues. “Uber doesn’t care about its drivers. We are peasants and pawn pieces to Uber’s bottom line.”

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.

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.

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