WAUKESHA, Wisconsin – The driver of an SUV that drove through a barricade and crashed into a Christmas parade in suburban Waukesha on Sunday was fleeing domestic unrest moments before killing at least five people and injuring more than 40 others , police said.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday that Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, was fleeing domestic unrest with a report of a knife when he crashed into the parade. Brooks was not prosecuted, Thompson said. He will be charged with five counts of intentional homicide, Thompson added.
The ages of the deceased victims ranged from 52 to 81 years old. Thompson said 48 other people were injured in the crash, which was captured during the city’s live broadcast as the car struck a high school band, a children’s dance group and the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.
Local hospital officials said earlier Monday that at least six children remained in critical condition. The Wisconsin Children’s Hospital received 18 patients aged 3 to 16, including three siblings, doctors said.
“Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy. I was on the parade early on,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said at a press conference. “I saw the happy children sitting on the sidewalk. I saw happy parents behind their children. I can still see the smiling faces.”
Governor Tony Evers has ordered flags to be hoisted on half of the staff on Monday and on the days the victims’ funerals are held. Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, “are praying for Waukesha tonight and for all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.” The town of Waukesha has announced that it will be holding an interfaith prayer vigil on Monday.
Who was the driver of the SUV?
Brooks, 39, a Milwaukee man with an open domestic violence court case, has been arrested and will face five charges of first degree manslaughter, Thompson said.
Thompson provided few details of the domestic disturbances to which police were called, beyond the fact that there had been a report of a knife. He said police did not respond to the scene until they immediately went to the scene of the parade. Thompson said Brooks was acting alone and there was no indication of terrorism.
“It’s a fluid investigation,” said Thompson.
Brooks has been accused three times in less than two years of recklessly endangering the safety of others, most recently on November 5 in a domestic violence incident for which he was also charged resistance or obstruction to an officer.
In the most recent case, a woman told police that Brooks purposely hit her with her vehicle as she walked through the parking lot of a gas station after he followed her there after a brawl, according to the criminal complaint. The woman was hospitalized, according to court records.
Brooks was released from jail on Friday after posting bail in the recent incident, court records show. He was also charged in July 2020 with two counts of second degree felony recklessly endangering the safety of others by using a dangerous weapon. Both cases are ongoing.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said it had launched an internal review of its “inappropriate” bail recommendation in the recent domestic violence case. Brooks posted a $ 1,000 bond, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.
What happened at the parade?
Waukesha, a town of 72,000 people just 20 miles west of Milwaukee, was celebrating the holidays with a holiday parade when disaster struck at around 4:39 pm local time. Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis city councilor, said he had just finished participating in the parade with his family and friends before seeing the car drive through the parade.
“We saw an SUV drive through, just put the pedal on the metal and go full speed down the parade route,” Tenorio said. “And then we heard a loud bang, and deafening screams and screams from people hit by the vehicle. And then we saw people running away or stop crying, and there are people on the ground. which appeared to have been hit by the vehicle. “
Thompson said he was at the scene shortly after the crash. “What I have seen of chaos and tragedy are heroes,” he said. “First responders and the community come together and work together to sort out the victims.”
Was there a shooting?
A police officer pulled at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, but stopped shooting due to the size of the crowd, Thompson said. No passerby was injured by the gunfire. He said police did not believe shots were fired from the SUV. The officer who fired was on administrative leave pending an investigation according to department policy, Thompson said.
Deaths include members of Milwaukee Dancing Grannies
The According to their website, Milwaukee Dancing Grannies was formed in 1984 and meets once a week to practice routines “for the summer and winter parades”. The members are 50 to 70 years old and are all grandmothers. The group published an article after the accident saying members and volunteers “have been affected and we are awaiting information on their conditions.” On Monday, the group announced that some members of their troop had been killed.
“Those who died were extremely passionate grannies. Their eyes shone (…) with joy at being a granny.” Our hearts are heavy in this most difficult time, as more and more information and updated will be available, they will be published. Please keep them for their families, their friends, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and all who live have forever changed in your thoughts and prayers. “
At least 18 children treated in hospital
Hospitals in the region were still treating the victims on Monday as questions remain about the exact number of injuries or deaths.
Those injured suffered serious head injuries, broken bones and scrapes on the face; six people were operated on Sunday evening and two others were operated on Monday.
In addition to the six children in critical condition, three others remained in serious condition.
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a Waukesha County hospital, confirmed it was treating 13 patients early Monday. Of those 13 people, three are in “critical” condition, four are in “serious” condition and six are in “fair” condition, according to a statement from the hospital, which is located about 15 miles from the scene of the incident. the tragedy.
“We pray for all those affected, their families and our first responders,” the statement said.
Staff at Children’s Wisconsin said the hospital helped treat a total of 18 children injured during the parade.
Corey Montiho, a board member for the Waukesha School District, said his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV. “They were pom poms and shoes and spilling hot chocolate all over the place. I had to go from crumpled body to crumpled body to find my daughter,” he said.
He said his wife and two daughters were almost shot.
“My family is safe but many are not. I held a little girl’s head in my hand, she was grabbing and her ears were bleeding. I held her mother as she collapsed. Please pray. “
President Joe Biden addressed the tragedy on Monday, saying: “An entire community is struggling to face this horrific act of violence.”
Biden said his administration was monitoring the situation closely and that he and his family were praying for those affected.
“Our team is in close contact with the local authorities to offer all the necessary support and assistance,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. tweeted. “Our thoughts are with the families and the whole community.”
The Green Bay Packers released a statement on Sunday saying the team’s thoughts were with the Waukesha community and “those affected by the terrible and senseless act that took place during the holiday parade.”
“We are grateful to the first responders and others who helped the injured and comforted those in need,” the statement continued. “We share our condolences with those who have lost loved ones. As a statewide community, we must all come together to support each other in these difficult times.”
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Miller reported from Carlsbad, California Contributing: Christopher Kuhagen, Mary Spicuzza, Molly Beck, Sophie Carson, Evan Casey, Cathy Kozlowicz, Elliot Hughes and Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentry; Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press