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Michigan Uber driver accused of murder ordered to stand trial

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (Reuters) -

Jason Dalton is seen on closed circuit television during his arraignment in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kalamazoo County Court/Handout via Reuters

A Michigan Uber driver must stand trial on charges he killed six people in a February shooting spree, a judge ruled on Friday after a preliminary hearing that was interrupted when the defendant made an outburst and was hauled out of court.

Jason Dalton, 45, is accused of shooting eight people and killing six of them within five hours on Feb. 20, in between driving customers for the Uber [UBER.UL] car service in the area of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Dalton participated in the hearing via a video hookup from jail after deputies dragged him out of the courtroom in the morning because he interrupted a witness who was testifying.

Kalamazoo County District Judge Christopher Haenicke said he removed Dalton because he made a verbal outburst and had started to jump up from his chair.

Haenicke heard testimony from three eye witnesses and forensic experts to decide whether there was probable cause to put Dalton on trial in Kalamazoo, located about 150 miles (240 km) west of Detroit. There was no testimony about possible motives in the case.

“I remember everything about it. I can never forget. I can never forget his face,” said witness Tiana Carruthers, who underwent multiple surgeries after being shot three times in her arms and legs.

Carruthers, the first person shot, was trying to shield children outside an apartment building. The other shootings happened at a car dealership and the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

When Carruthers first took the stand on Friday morning, Dalton, who was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and was handcuffed, suddenly started talking about “black bags” and “going to temple.”

He tried to gesture with his hands, but was restricted because of a chain around his waist that held his handcuffs close to his body.

The judge told him he could not speak during the proceedings. Carruthers began sobbing on the witness stand, which is when Haenicke asked deputies to remove Dalton.

“I don’t think that his behavior today will have any impact on the trial,” prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said at a news conference after the hearing.

In April a judge ruled that Dalton was mentally competent to stand trial after the Center for Forensic Psychiatry said he understood the charges against him.

Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler