An individual purporting to be the Uber driver charged with fatally shooting shooting six people in western Michigan has sued the ride-sharing company, just one day after police reports showed he told investigators the app controlled him like “a puppet”.
In a two-page handwritten complaint filed on Tuesday, an individual claiming to be Jason Dalton said the company caused “psychological damage” and treated him as a “second-class citizen”. The federal suit followed a series of police reports released on Monday, showing Dalton told investigators Uber’s app takes over “your whole body” and forced him to launch the killing spree that also left two wounded.
It’s unclear if the document is genuine. The filing included Dalton’s inmate number and a return address for the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, which is currently holding the 45-year-old. A scan of an envelope used to mail the complaint to the courthouse is included in the filing and is postmarked from Philadelphia.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, Paul Matyas, told the Guardian: “We’re a tad bit suspicious.”
“Our mail here does not come through Philadelphia, it comes through Grand Rapids,” Matyas said. “So we’re suspicious of it, and it’s something we’ll go through tomorrow.”
The complaint said Dalton, who admitted his involvement in the killings, is seeking $10m for punitive damages and emotional distress.
“I’m currently in prison because of Uber,” Dalton wrote in the complaint dated 11 March. “Uber doesn’t care about its drivers, we are peasants and pawn pieces to Uber’s bottom line. Defendants manipulate all Uber drivers. My life is ruined because of Uber.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Uber said: “It’s hard to know how to respond to someone who refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families who have to live with the consequence of his terrible crimes.”
Though Dalton said in the complaint that he has worked several years for the company, Uber told reporters last month that he became a driver on 25 January and logged more than 100 rides over the following weeks.
Dalton said he had to pay for gas and car repairs after his vehicle struck potholes. He also claimed he was called late at night to work, under threat that the company would fire him. Uber drivers select their hours to work in a given week.
The complaint, which doesn’t include similar statements in police reports of the ride-sharing app controlling him, also said Uber didn’t pay Dalton a Christmas bonus or overtime.
The civil claim comes as the police reports released this week showed Dalton told police that he believed Uber’s smartphone app made him feel like “a puppet”. He said he “recognized the Uber symbol as being that of the Eastern Star” and that a “devil head” would pop up on his screen.
“Dalton said that the iPhone can take you over,” a police report stated, adding: “Dalton said he wishes he would never have spoken what that symbol was when he saw it on his phone. Dalton described the devil figure as a horned cow head … and then it would give you an assignment and it would literally take over your whole body.”
Dalton was charged last month with six counts of murder and two counts of assault with intent to murder in connection with a 20 February series of shootings at an apartment complex, car lot and Cracker Barrel restaurant. A judge earlier this month ordered a psychological examination, which is expected to take upwards of 60 days. He’s currently held without bond and, if convicted, faces life in prison without parole.
Dalton’s court-appointed defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but he told a local newspaper Wednesday that he was unaware of the civil suit.