Waukesha: Police name suspect after five killed as car ploughs into Wisconsin Christmas parade

·6-min read
Waukesha: Police name suspect after five killed as car ploughs into Wisconsin Christmas parade

A man taken into custody after an SUV ploughed into a holiday parade in Wisconsin, killing at least five people, has been identified by police as Darrell Brooks Jr.

In a news conference on Monday, Chief Dan Thompson, from Waukesha police department, said the suspect “intentionally drove” through barricades into the parade.

The chief said police were drawing up five charges of intentional homicide against Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee.

Five people - aged between 52 and 81 years old - were killed, and 48 more were injured as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others.

Police said Brooks had left a domestic disturbance before the incident.

Milawaukee County Sheriff’s Office released an image of suspect Darrell Brooks (AP)
Milawaukee County Sheriff’s Office released an image of suspect Darrell Brooks (AP)

Chief Thompson said it was not a terrorist event and there was no police pursuit beforehand.

Members of a Dancing Grannies club were among those killed, as was an employee of Citizens Bank.

Mr Thompson identified those killed as four women and a man.

They were identified as Wilhelm Hospel, 81, Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52 and Jane Kulich, 52.

Milawaukee County Sheriff’s Office released an image of the suspect - who is reported to be an underground hip-hop artist.

Waukesha’s mayor, Shawn Reilly, told media their annual parade has become a “nightmare” but the community would come together and a fund for the victims is being set up.

Milwaukee children’s hospital said six children are in a critical condition as a paediatric trauma centre helped to treat 18 children who were injured in the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday.

Eighteen children - aged three to 16 - were taken to a Milwaukee children’s hospital after the incident, said Dr Amy Drendel.

Six went into surgery last night and two more are having surgery on Monday.

Parade turned deadly in an instant

A initially joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms turned deadly in an instant, as the SUV sped through a barricade and into the parade.

Mr Thompson said an officer fired a shot to try to stop the driver but ceased firing because of the danger to others. The driver was not injured.

One video showed a woman screaming, "Oh my God!" repeatedly as a group of young dancers was struck Sunday. A father talked of going "from one crumpled body to the other" in search of his daughter. Members of a "Dancing Grannies" club were among those hit.

"What took place in Waukesha today is sickening, and I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice," Attorney General Josh Kaul, the state's top law enforcement officer, tweeted.

 (City of Waukesha/AFP via Getty Images)
(City of Waukesha/AFP via Getty Images)

Brooks has two open criminal cases in Milwaukee County, according to reports. In one case, filed November 5, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery. Records show a 1,000 dollars cash bond was posted on Friday.

In the other case, filed in July 2020, Brooks is charged with reckless endangering and illegal possession of a firearm.

On a since-deleted social media profile, Brooks described himself as an underground hip-hop recording artist and performed under the name MathBoi Fly.

The horror was recorded by the city's livestream and onlookers' cellphones. One video shows the moment the SUV broke through the barricades and the sound of what appears to be several gunshots. Thompson said a Waukesha police officer fired his gun to try to stop the vehicle. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire, and Thompson said he did not know if the driver was struck by the officer's bullets.

A woman told Milwaukee’s Fox6 TV station that the SUV hit a dance team of girls between 9 and 15 years old. She said the immediate reaction was silence, followed by screaming, running and checking on those injured. Footage on social media showed small groups surrounding injured girls with white pompoms scattered around.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that "members of the group and volunteers were impacted and we are waiting for word on their conditions." The group's profile describes them as a "group of grannies that meet once a week to practice routines for summer and winter parades."

Mayor Shawn Reilly said it was a “traumatic” time for the city. “My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless act,” he added.

A Catholic priest, multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren were among those injured, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee spokeswoman Sandra Peterson said.

Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, had about 70 people in the parade ranging from as young as 2 being pulled in wagons to age 18. Germain, whose 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving at the head of their entry when he saw a maroon SUV that "just blazed right past us."

A police officer ran past in chase. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and gathered the girls who were with him to safety.

Then he walked forward to see the damage.

 (AP)
(AP)

"There were small children laying all over the road, there were police officers and EMTs doing CPR on multiple members of the parade," he said.

President Joe Biden said he, and his family, are praying for those suffering. The President was briefed by aides about the events, a White House official said.

They said: "The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident. We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed."

“This is an unspeakable tragedy, affecting us all as we work to overcome an extremely challenging two years and resume our cherished holiday traditions,” Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said in a statement.

“I had just finished participating in the parade with my wife when I noticed police sirens. Shortly afterward, I learned that a vehicle drove through the parade route injuring many people. Please pray for our community tonight after the horrific events at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.”

The parade, held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city's Chamber of Commerce. This year's, the 59th, had the theme of "comfort and joy."

Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday of charges stemming from the shooting of three men during unrest in that city in August 2020.

The parade, held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city's Chamber of Commerce. This year's event, the 59th, had the theme of "comfort and joy".

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