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Kalamazoo latest in string of incidents involving Uber drivers

In the minutes and hours between three deadly shootings that rocked Kalamazoo, Mich., on Saturday, suspect Jason Dalton, an Uber taxi driver, picked up fares.

By the end of the night, eight people had been shot -- six of whom were killed -- and Dalton had become most high-profile suspect in a global string of criminal incidents that have focused a harsh spotlight on Uber. The company confirmed Sunday that Dalton, who was charged Monday with six counts of murder, passed its background check before he was hired.

None of the shooting victims were Dalton's passengers, officials said. An Uber passenger told CBS affiliate WWMT that he called police to report an erratic driver more than an hour before authorities allege the driver began shooting people at random.

In December 2014 the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco filed a lawsuit claiming Uber made "misleading statements" about its safety policies.

Court documents highlight a series of cases in which drivers with felony convictions and serious driving violations have been allowed to drive for Uber. San Francisco DA George Gascon told CBS Los Angeles in August that the cases uncovered by his office run the gamut of violent crime.

"We have drivers who are convicted sex offenders, identity thieves, burglars, kidnappers, and a convicted murderer, and this is just in LA alone," Gascon said.

Court documents indicate the convicted murderer referred to by Gascon was on parole in 2014 when he applied to be an Uber driver, and used a fake name to beat the background check.

Uber's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement released to media Sunday that the company is "horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo."

"Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries," Sullivan said. "We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can."

The shooting came after more than a dozen cases in recent months in which Uber drivers have been charged or sued for alleged sexual or physical assaults, or other criminal incidents, according to media reports about individual cases both in the United States and abroad.

Among the cases:

The company screens applicants using a service called Checkr,which requires drivers' names, birth dates, social security numbers, driver's license information and other information about vehicles. It also checks local, state and databases of criminal convictions going back seven years.

Critics have pointed out that unlike many taxi companies, Uber doesn't use LiveScan, a service that continuously monitors drivers for criminal activity.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller says Uber is cooperating with law enforcement officials investigating the shootings, and he believes the company will "help us fill in some timeline gaps."

Uber Safety Advisory Board member Edward Davis, a former Boston police commissioner, told CBS MoneyWatch that the issue isn't about background checks, given that Dalton reportedly didn't have a criminal background, but about the availability of guns and mental illness.

"He was a family guy, the kind of guy you would want to hire," Davis said. "This is a case where someone has gone rogue completely. It's impossible to predict."

Uber has a "very good system of checks and constant balances," he added, noting that passengers rate drivers, which provides feedback to the company. "You get security before, during and after the ride. You know who your driver is. You get a picture of him. You get the license number. So I think the criticism that's being leveled at Uber is more a function of Uber being a disruptive technology."

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