Picking targets seemingly at random, a gunman went on a hours-long rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Saturday night, driving around the city and opening fire on unsuspecting victims — a woman outside an apartment complex, a father and son eyeing cars at an auto dealership, a group of women parked at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
Six people died, and another two were seriously injured — including a 14-year-old girl who had been pronounced brain dead but squeezed her mother's hand as doctors were preparing to harvest her organs, police said. Amid the carnage, her survival stood out as a miracle, authorities said.
The suspected killer, a 45-year-old Uber driver named Jason Brian Dalton, was in custody Sunday but had not been charged, police said.
Dalton has no record of criminal history, nor anything in his background "that would lead us to believe he was capable of this type of behavior," Kalamazoo Police Chief Jeff Hadley said Sunday morning.
Dalton, who is expected to be charged Monday, apparently acted alone and there was no continuing threat to the community, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said.
Uber's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, said Dalton had passed a background check to become a driver. The company was “horrified and heartbroken" and had offered to help investigators, he said.
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The first shooting occurred around 6 p.m. local time at the Meadows Town Homes in the city's northwest, where one woman was shot several times but survived, police said.
Neighbors told NBC affiliate WOOD that a man believed to be Dalton circled the block before opening fire. Just before he did, the station reported, he asked the victim, who had recently moved to the neighborhood and was outside with her three children, about her name.
That’s when James George, 17, heard bullets strike his home.
“I checked out the back window, saw the car driving,” he said, according to the station. “She was laying right here.”
"He was here to kill," added a friend of George's, Travis Gettys.
The children and were not injured; the condition of their mother, who has not been identified, was unclear Sunday. George was uninjured as well, despite four bullets piercing the wall of his home, WOOD reported.
The next burst of gunfire happened more than three hours later, when police were called to a car dealership, where Rich Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler, were shot dead, authorities said.
The father and child were looking at cars when they were gunned down, according to Robin Buchler, the superintendent of Mattwan High School, where Tyler was a student.
A few minutes later, the gunman approached a Chevrolet Cruze and a Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel. He briefly spoke to the people inside and then "unloaded his weapon into both cars," Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas said. All four people in the Cruze, including a 14-year-old girl, were hit, along with the sole occupant of the minivan. All but the girl died.
Michigan State Police identified the dead Cracker Barrel victims as Mary Lou Nye, 63, of Baroda, Michigan; Mary Jo Nye, 60, of Battle Creek, Michigan; Dorothy Brown, 74, of Battle Creek; and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek.
The girl was initially reported dead. But more than an hour later, as doctors were preparing to harvest her organs, she squeezed her mom's hand, Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz told NBC News. She was then able to respond to questions by squeezing her mom's hand several more times, and was rushed into surgery.
"It's an absolute miracle," Hinz said.
All eight of Saturday's victims "appear to have been chosen at random because they were available," Getting said.
"There's a sense of loss, there's an anger — there's fear — there's all these emotions and then you put on top of that: how do you go and tell the families of these victims that they weren't targeted for any reason other than they were there to be a target?" Getting said.
Dalton was taken into custody around 12:40 a.m. after his Chevrolet HHR was spotted on a surveillance camera leaving a bar parking lot, authorities said. Police found a semi-automatic handgun during the arrest.
"We have 9, 10, 11 shell casings at each of these scenes," Getting said, adding that police were investigating to ensure there no other crime scenes. "These weren’t a sudden explosion ...this was done intentionally."
Jon Schuppe writes about crime, justice and related matters for NBC News.
Tim Stelloh, Andrew Rudansky, Matthew Johnson, Phil Helsel and Matthew Grimson contributed.