Retired undersheriff surprised by spree killer’s plea

Kalamazoo Shooting Spree

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On the night of the Kalamazoo shooting rampage nearly three years ago, Pali Matyas was the commanding officer on scene who broke news to the public that an indiscriminate killer was on the loose.

On Monday, he learned of killer Jason Dalton’s guilty pleas like many others. Having retired since the shooting, he watched what was transpiring on TV.

“I was a tad bit surprised that the thing went this far and then at the last second he just pleads guilty and that was that,” Matyas told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview Monday evening. “I was surprised.”

Dalton pre-empted his own trial by pleading guilty a total of 16 felonies linked to the three shootings that killed Rich Smith, Tyler Smith, Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne, Mary Jo Nye and Mary Lou Nye and wounded Tiana Carruthers and Abbie Kopf on the night of Feb. 20, 2016.

Matyas, who was involved throughout the investigation, says he is confident the case would have netted a guilty verdict from any jury. But, he says, the guilty plea is no less of a relief than a conviction.

“Not for myself,” he said. “Even though I have kept an interest in the case, I really think of all the families and friends and acquaintances of these victims. That’s who I feel the relief for.”

The case has taken many turns since the night of the shooting but one burning question remains unanswered: Why?

“We can guess a lot and a lot of times we do guess… In this particular case there is no guess. All we can say is, you know, maybe the guy just snapped,” Matyas said. “It’s just proof that this can happen anytime, anywhere with anybody.”

Since his arrest the night of the shootings, Dalton has been housed in the Kalamazoo County Jail, which is managed by the sheriff’s department. Matyas said he is aware of no indication that Dalton is remorseful for his actions

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