KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A man charged in the fatal shooting of six people in southwestern Michigan will undergo a mental competency exam to determine if he can participate in his defense, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the review of Jason Dalton's mental health could delay the criminal case by at least two months.
Dalton, 45, is charged with murder and attempted murder in the Feb. 20 attacks in Kalamazoo. Police say he fatally shot four people outside a restaurant and a father and son at a car dealership in between driving passengers for Uber. Two people survived the shootings.
The evaluation would determine whether Dalton understands the charges and can assist in his defense, but would not consider his mental status on the day of the shootings, Getting said.
"It has no bearing on his criminal responsibility for a crime. This is not a determination to see if he was legally insane," Getting told reporters, a few hours after a judge granted the mental health exam request by Dalton's attorney.
Eusebio Solis has declined comment since his appointment as defense attorney last week.
The exam means a hearing scheduled for March 10 to determine if there's enough evidence to send Dalton to trial is postponed. The case will be reviewed again on May 10, although that date could change if the evaluation is completed earlier than expected.
Getting said the exam is important to establish whether the state can prosecute Dalton fairly.
"We don't want to be moving forward in the criminal justice system against a person who doesn't know what's happening around them," he said.
Getting said he is unaware of any history of mental difficulties for Dalton.
He said there was no talk of plea negotiations during the meeting Thursday and that he doesn't expect any.
Dalton didn't know the victims. Investigators haven't disclosed a motive, although they've said Dalton has admitted his role in the shootings. All Getting would say about motive on Thursday was that police continue to "try to determine a 'why' for this. But I'm not at liberty to discuss it any further."
Getting previously said Dalton appeared to have used a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in the shootings. He said Michigan State police and federal authorities were investigating the weapon used and other weapons Dalton had. He said he couldn't comment on those investigations.