Spree shooter’s guilty plea saves money, pain

Kalamazoo Shooting Spree

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Canceling the murder trial for the Kalamazoo spree shooter is saving the community in more ways than one.

It was a relief to victims’ families Monday when Jason Dalton pleaded guilty to all 16 charges he faced for the Feb. 20, 2016, shooting rampage in metro Kalamazoo that killed six people and seriously wounded two more.

>>Complete coverage of the Kalamazoo shooting rampage

The plea also saved the county tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars.

“What it comes down to is there isn’t a price that we weren’t willing to pay in this case in order to accomplish justice,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said Tuesday.

Among the savings is $20,000 to cover overtime for deputies securing the courtroom. An outburst by Dalton when survivor Tiana Carruthers was on the stand during a May 2016 hearing only added to security concerns.

“We certainly couldn’t ignore the obvious risks,” Getting said.

There are typically one or two deputies in the courtroom during a trial, but this trial required between four and six to secure the defendant and all exits.

“That’s a lot of personnel, that’s a lot of overtime,” Getting said. “It’s really huge expense. It’s tens of thousands dollars.”

Plus the trial was expected to take two weeks. There were between 30 and 50 witness lined up, 10 times the number for a typical trial, and it there were costs associated with that.

“Some of those witnesses no longer live locally,” Getting explained . “They were here at the time, but aren’t here now, so we would have borne the expense of bringing them in from other places, including other states.”

And the long testimony would have pushed the juror cost past $1,400.

The prosecutor says there was also an emotional cost.

“There’s this overwhelming emotion, this sadness and grief and that is impossible for people not to feel when you start talking about what happened,” he added. “Tiana Carruthers protecting those children at Meadows as she tries to run away from a person shooting at her 15 times and Richard and Tyler Smith at Seelye Ford Kia being shot multiple times, the descriptions of the Cracker Barrel scene — it was going to leave a mark on everyone in that courtroom.”

Dalton will be sentenced next month to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is mandatory in first-degree murder convictions in Michigan.

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