KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — One year after a shooting rampage rocked the Kalamazoo area, West Michigan on Monday remembered the people killed and continued to show support for the survivors.
At a Monday night vigil, plans were announced for a large memorial park and monument designed in honor of the lives lost in and affected by the shooting spree.
THE SHOOTING SPREE
Over the course of nearly five hours on Feb. 20, 2016, a shooter opened fire at three locations in and around Kalamazoo. When it was over, six people were dead. Two more — a mother and a teen girl — were seriously injured.
The first shooting happened around 5:40 p.m. at the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township. There, authorities say Tiana Carruthers used her body to shield children, including her own, from an entire magazine of bullets. She was shot multiple times, but survived and continues to recover.
A few hours later, father and son Rich and Tyler Smith — ages 53 and 17 — were gunned down as they looked at cars at the Seelye Kia car dealership in Kalamazoo. Authorities say the shooter emptied another magazine at that scene.
Tyler Smith’s girlfriend hid in the Smiths’ car as the shots were fired. After the shooter left, she went to her boyfriend’s body, got his cellphone out of his pocket and called 911.
Then, around 10:30 p.m., the shooter opened fired into a vehicle in the parking lot of the Texas Township Cracker Barrel. Judy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; Mary Jo Nye, 60; and Mary Lou Nye, 62, were killed. Abbie Kopf, who 14 at the time, was with the women. She was shot in the head and for a time, doctors believed she would die — but she lived. There have been setbacks in her recovery, but it is progressing.
The shooting suspect, Jason Dalton, was arrested without incident in Kalamazoo a little more than two hours after the last shooting.
Now 46, Dalton is still awaiting trial on 16 criminal counts and is pleading insanity. Police reports say he told investigators that a “devil” manifested in his Uber app and controlled his body. He said the app would make different sounds to tell him who he should kill. At a preliminary hearing in May, he was dragged from the courtroom after having a nonsensical outburst while Carruthers was on the stand.
Dalton was working his second job as an Uber driver the night of the shootings. None of the passengers he picked up before, between or after the shootings were shot. He had no prior criminal record or history of mental illness — nothing that would prevent him from getting a gun.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said he’s hoping the trial will start as early as spring. A motion hearing is scheduled for early March which he says should finalize what evidence will be admissible in the case.
“I’m anxious. I’m ready to go. I want to get this done so we can get this piece passed for the victims to provide some closure for them,” said Getting. “I think it’s very important for the community, it’s important for the victims and it’s important for justice, in a more general sense, to get this case completed and the trial done.”
The Kalamazoo community came together after the shootings, donating money to help the victims and their families.
As of earlier this month, more than $245,000 had been donated to the Help Now! Fund for the victims. A separate organization called Kalamazoo Strong also raised tens of thousands of dollars, and tens of thousands more have been donated to the GoFundMe accounts for Abbie and Carruthers.
Funds are still being raised for the proposed memorial announced Monday. Donations may be made online at the new ForeverStrong Memorial Foundation website.