Victims’ family on Dalton guilty plea: “He took the coward way out”

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 22:54:10-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich -- A day after Jason Dalton pleaded guilty to killing six people in the 2016 Kalamazoo shooting spree, we’re hearing from more victim’s family members.

Richard Smith and his son, Tyler, were gunned down that fateful night at a car dealership in Kalamazoo. In the years that have followed, Laurie Smith and Emily Lemmer have certainly been through a lot waiting for this case to go to trial. Now that it’s over, they say they have many mixed emotions.

Laurie Smith said, “It literally felt like that night again,” when describing the moment she was told there wouldn’t be a trail for her husband and son’s accused killer.

She said, “We found out 45 minutes before we had to be at the courtroom. I literally just started shaking, because I’m like ‘what is happening right now?’”

Monday, Dalton pleaded guilty to killing six people and seriously injuring two others during the massacre. It’s a move that surprised even his defense attorney.

Smith said, “I feel in a way that we got robbed, like he took the coward way out. I truly believe that he wanted to save his family from knowing the details and he didn’t want to sit through it.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by shooting survivor, Tiana Carruthers, who posted a message on social media, saying part:

“You at least owe everyone a reason. This isn’t closure, not even close.”

Dalton’s lack of remorse, adding to the Smith’s frustrations.

“I’ve never heard him say ‘sorry’, never seen a tear.”

Emily Lemmer, who lost her father and brother that night, said while she’s partly relieved victims and their families won’t have to spend weeks in a courtroom, she’s missing closure.

“He’s spending the rest of his life in jail and that won’t bring my family back, it won’t bring anyone’s family back.”
She added, “I just pray that he feels what he did was wrong and he feels that every day.”

Both women said they plan on giving victim impact statements when Dalton is sentenced in February, closing a painful chapter, while keeping Richard and Tyler’s memory alive.

“I just hope that he knows they’re not just targets, they’re people and that they meant everything to a lot of people,” Lemmer said.

Smith said, “I will never stop talking about them, because they will always be as close as they were, just not physically.”

Both women say they want to thank the prosecuting attorney’s, police, first responder's and the entire Kalamazoo community for helping them through this time.

One other person who was recognized by the attorney following that plea: Tyler’s girlfriend Alexis, who was with him and his dad when the shots were fired at the car dealership. She hid the car that night, then dug a phone out of Tyler’s pocket to call 9-1-1.

When it comes to a motive, officials said, that’s something we may never know.

Dalton is scheduled to be sentenced on February 5th.