911 confusion in Kalamazoo Uber shooting

Posted at 8:54 AM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 08:54:18-04

The release of 911 calls reporting a "super crazy" Uber driver traveling dangerously, nearly an hour before the start of a spate of shootings that left six people dead and others severely injured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, raised some concerns after it was revealed that the caller had been transferred not once but twice to different dispatchers that evening.

"Hi, I'd like to report a crazy driver," the male caller told the first dispatcher around 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20. "I just got an Uber to my friend's house and on the way there, he was driving erratic. ... He drove through the woods and then finally I just jumped out. ... I mean, he stopped 'cause I was like, 'This is my destination. This is my destination.'"

LISTEN to a portion of the 911 calls in this ABC News report.

Michigan police identified the caller as Matt Mellen. Mellen told ABC News previously that his terrifying Uber ride started around 4 p.m.

"I'm happy to be alive today," he said. "I really thought I was going to die in that car."

In the calls released by a Kalamazoo government agency, Mellen said that he was scared.

"I got out of the car and it was like a block from where my actual destination was. ... He was driving 50, 60 miles an hour. He hit a car. He drove through the median," he said in the calls.

Mellen was then transferred to another dispatcher. After he recounted his story, he was finally transferred to the city's 911 dispatch center.

Mellen told the dispatcher that he'd ordered the Uber because he needed to pick up his car from where he'd left it the previous night. He said the Uber ride, at first, had been normal.

"On the way to my friend's house, it started off normal and then all of a sudden he just started driving super crazy. ... I just wanted to report it 'cause I don't want someone to get hurt," he said. "I don't think he needs to be picking people up."

Mellen told the dispatcher that he did not need to speak to a police officer but wanted to put authorities on alert. The 911 dispatcher then instructed him to call the car service to report the driver. Mellen told ABC News in an earlier interview that he's since been contacted by Uber.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeffrey Hadley told ABC News that there were three different dispatch centers -- county, township and city -- located in one room.

He said that depending on where a person was standing when they called 911, they were sent to the appropriate 911 dispatcher. In this case, Hadley said the 911 call had initially been made on West Main, a boundary between Kalamazoo's township and city, so the township transferred Mellen to the city, thinking that the Uber car would head in that direction.

Hadley said that after the 911 call, around 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20, a description of the Uber car was sent to police officers' in-car computers as well as over the radio so that officers could keep an eye out for an erratic driver.

He said that while he understood people's concerns about a person having to recount their story three times to 911 dispatchers, he did not think the calls should've been handled differently.

"We're not going on a manhunt for an erratic driver. That's just not the manner in which we respond to those situations," he said. "I think our dispatchers handled [the call] within normal protocol."

Police later identified the Uber driver as Jason Dalton, 45, of Kalamazoo.

Dalton was arrested around 12:40 a.m. Feb. 21 after allegedly going on a shooting rampage in three separate incidents Feb. 20. Authorities said that Dalton shot a woman in a Kalamazoo parking lot around 5:45 p.m. Feb. 20 -- a little more than an hour after the 911 call reporting a "crazy" driver.

Hadley said that after the first shooting, a dispatcher called Mellen back and asked for a description of the Uber driver as well as a picture.

Dalton is charged with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight charges of using a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to Kalamazoo County prosecuting attorney Jeff Getting.

Getting previously said that Dalton had continued to pick up Uber fares between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. According to court documents, Dalton told police that he believed the Uber app was controlling him.

"It feels like it is coming from the phone itself, like an artificial presence," Dalton told investigators, according to a police report obtained by ABC News.

A "not guilty" plea was entered on Dalton's behalf by the judge at his arraignment, according to the prosecutor assigned to the case.

"Obviously hindsight being 20/20," Hadley said, "you look for answers in these tragedies. ... We couldn't have possibly imagined that the Uber driver that was called in for erratic driving would go on and do the terrible things that he had done."

ABC News' Andy Fies, Rachel Humphries and Alex Perez contributed to this story.