Darrell Brooks was trying to strike “as many people as possible” when raced his car through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, authorities said in a criminal complaint.
The complaint filed on Tuesday describes Mr Brooks as having “no emotion” when he drove down the parade route, killing six people and wounding at least 47 others. Moments earlier, he was said to have fled from police responding to a call about a domestic dispute between him and another person.
Prosecutors plan to charge the 39-year-old with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He is being held on $5m bail.
More than $1.5m has been raised to support victims of the attack and their families. The six people killed are: Tamara Durand, Jane Kulich, Wilhelm Hospel, Leanna Owen, Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, and Jackson Sparks.
Darrell E. Brooks Jr., 39, is believed to have acted alone Sunday and is the only suspect, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday. Brooks faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, with additional charges based on the investigation, Thompson said.Brooks had been released from jail less than two weeks ago in a domestic abuse case, on a $1,000 bail that prosecutors recommended and now say was “inappropriately low.” Brooks will have his initial court appearance at 4 p.m. CT Tuesday at which initial charges will be filed, according to a statement from the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office. The hearing will be available via livestream for the public to view.”We are working closely with the City of Waukesha Police Department to review the matter and decide what criminal charges will be issued,” read the statement. Thompson said Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance with another person just prior to driving his SUV through the parade Sunday afternoon. Police were not able to respond to the initial call about the domestic incident because they had to respond to the parade so quickly after receiving the call, the chief said. Police stressed there was no police pursuit leading up to the incident. What we know about what happened at the Wisconsin Christmas parade. Thompson said there is no information that Brooks knew anyone in the parade. Five people were killed in the incident. They ranged from age 52 to 81 years old, Thompson said. The city identified the victims as:
- Virginia Sorenson, 79
- LeAnna Owen, 71
- Tamara Durand, 52
- Jane Kulich, 52
- Wilhelm Hospel, 81
The police chief acknowledged the heroism of onlookers at the scene, saying first responders and residents worked together to triage the victims and get them as stable as possible. He said officers and citizens took victims to the hospital in their personal vehicles. At least 18 children were hospitalized after the parade, said Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in nearby Milwaukee.Thompson said the incident is not a terrorist event. The crash also does not appear to be connected to the recent verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to multiple law enforcement sources familiar with preliminary investigation findings.
Suspect had been released on bail from earlier incident, DA says
Darrell Brooks in a November 3 booking photo.”Officers observed tire tracks on her left pants leg,” the criminal complaint read.Prosecutors filed five charges related to the incident including: obstructing an officer, second-degree recklessly endangering safety with domestic abuse assessments, disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments and misdemeanor battery with domestic abuse assessments. Brooks was also charged with bail jumping, because he was already out on bail following a July 24, 2020, incident, according to court documents.In a statement, the Milwaukee DA’s office now says it should not have recommended such a low bail for Brooks and have launched an internal review into the decision.”The State’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks,” the office’s statement said. “The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail.”CNN reached out to Brooks’ attorney from the 2020 and earlier November 2021 incident about the DA’s statement, but has not yet received a response. With the 2020 incident, Brooks is accused of firing a handgun during an argument, according to a charging complaint. While arresting Brooks, authorities say they found a stolen handgun and three “multicolored pills,” which later tested “presumptively positive” for methamphetamines. Brooks was charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangering safety while using of a dangerous weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Bail had initially been set at $10,000 in that case but because Brooks had asked for a speedy jury trial, which could not be met, bail was reduced to $500. Brooks was released on bail in that case on February 21, according to the district attorney’s office. Brooks has an outstanding arrest warrant in Nevada in an unrelated case for which he was arrested and jumped bail, authorities said. CNN has reached out to a previous attorney for Brooks with no response. Authorities in Nevada issued an active warrant on Brooks on August 15, 2016, for jumping bail, according to Sarah Johns, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. Johns said detectives later determined Brooks was in Wisconsin. “However, detectives did not have viable intelligence on Brooks’ exact location.”
6 people were killed and more than 40 were injured after a driver in an SUV plowed through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., on Sunday, officials said — a violent end to the otherwise festive scene where children were dancing in the street and a marching band played “Jingle Bells.”
The toll of dead and injured could increase as more information is gathered, the Waukesha Police Department said early Monday.
Authorities have recovered the driver’s vehicle and have taken one person into custody, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said at a news conference Sunday evening. Thompson said the investigation was still “very fluid” and that it was “unknown at this time whether the incident has any nexus to terrorism.” He did not comment on a possible motive. The FBI said it was assisting local authorities in the investigation.
Waukesha Fire Chief Steven Howard said first responders activated their “mass casualty protocols” and took 23 people to hospitals, including 12 children. Additional people were transported to medical facilities by the police and family members, he said.
“We saw an SUV speeding down the parade route,” Angelito Tenorio, who is running as a Democrat for Wisconsin state treasurer, told The Washington Post on Monday. “We didn’t know if this was an accident or a deliberate attack.”
Tenorio, who attended the parade with his family and campaign manager, had been marching with the Waukesha County Democrats shortly before the incident. What came next was a “loud bang,” “deafening cries and screams” and a wave of “fear and agony,” said Tenorio, a West Allis alderman. The streets turned chaotic as parents rushed to protect their children and parade attendees fled the scene, leaving a trail of belongings behind them.
The parade — a highly anticipated event in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee — turned from a happy, bustling atmosphere to one of “absolute chaos,” he said.
“After the crowd had cleared out, that’s when I saw what looked like people who were laying on the ground, lifeless,” he continued.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, who also participated in the parade, described a jubilant atmosphere that quickly turned nightmarish. “Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy,” he said. “I walked in the parade at the beginning. I saw all the happy children sitting on the curb. I saw all the happy parents behind their children. I can still see the smiling faces.”
The vehicle broke through barricades about 4:40 p.m. local time, roughly 40 minutes after the parade began.
In video of the parade streamed by the city to its Facebook page, the SUV is seen speeding down the parade route seconds after a marching band playing “Jingle Bells” had passed. Onlookers screamed at the sight of the vehicle barreling down Main Street, whizzing past a Jeep that was outfitted in Christmas lights, as a police officer chased the SUV on foot.
After the parade carried on for a few minutes, emergency vehicles sped by, sirens and lights blaring, as a group of children dancing with snowflake props tried to carry on with their performance.
A police officer fired at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, said Thompson, the police chief. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire, he said, adding that authorities did not believe any shots were fired from the vehicle.
“We heard people screaming,” Zack Heisler, a Milwaukee resident at the parade with his family, told The Post. “It sounded like excitement, and the screaming sounded closer, then it sounded like terror. People sounded scared.”
Heisler said he saw a car “flying past us” and “people flying everywhere.”
When Angela O’Boyle got home from work, the parade was ongoing. She stepped out onto her balcony to record the festivities just below so she could share it with family who couldn’t be at the parade.
Eight seconds into a video she shared with The Post, a red SUV rams into a band playing just under O’Boyle’s view.
“It didn’t seem real. You’re watching it, but you’re not watching it happen,” O’Boyle said in an interview. “I was watching it through this lens.”
She continued to watch as the driver got to the end of the long block. Shrieks and gasps can be heard in the video, as parade-goers start to run toward those who had been hit.
Dan Schneiderman, owner of the local Vinyl Vault record store, said he was standing at the store window when it suddenly felt like things went into slow motion. He said he “heard the thud thud thud” of people being hit “and the car screaming past.”
He said he will not forget the sound of the car hitting people.
“I ran out the door, and it was mass chaos. There were people running eastbound up Main Street screaming,” Schneiderman told The Post. “I started grabbing people. It’s a small sidewalk. Herding as much people in as I could.”
Dozens huddled inside his tiny music store, he said. As they waited, there was silence.
“There was no conversation. Every single one of them had a look of fear on their face I’ll never forget,” he said. “That was more fear I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. The most scared I’ve ever seen of a human being.”
Kaylee Staral, an intern at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, attended the parade with her family members, who took their spots next to parents and children with candy bags and blankets. “It was supposed to be an exciting event,” Staral, 20, said in an interview with The Post. “A bunch of little kids were there. People were there to get in the holiday season.”
Minutes later, the SUV shot past Staral and her family, and they watched as it rammed into participants. She counted four people injured on the pavement in front of her. All around, people were screaming and crying as they rushed into stores for shelter and tried to help those injured
“Everyone was just watching the parade go by and having a good time,” Staral said. “I don’t think anyone expected anything like this to happen.”
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha School District board member, was with his family at the parade, where his daughter’s dance team was performing. They were watching a high school marching band when the vehicle plowed through, hitting several of his daughter’s team members, he said. People scrambled to help, he said. “I saw bodies and kids and dads not breathing,” Montiho said. His daughter was not injured, but many of her teammates were in critical condition early Monday, he said.
Montiho said he had made eye contact with the man driving the SUV, describing him as “calm and composed.”
Children, some as young as 4 years old who were set to dance or walk in the parade, took shelter inside St. Matthias Episcopal Church on Main Street, where Pastor David Simmons, a Kentucky native who moved to Waukesha 23 years ago, said some waited hours to be reunited with their parents, who were waiting for them on the other side.
Simmons said he and others who were going in and out of the church to stay warm or use the toilets saw the SUV emerge from the right-hand side of the street and heard the driver “[honk] his horn really vociferously, which looked at least to us like he was trying to get people out of the way.”
“He could’ve been going down the middle of the road and he was not,” Simmons added. “As he swerved and headed downtown and picked up speed, he was heading down to the park, where the parade was more tightly packed. Most of us assumed that he would get down a block or two and then the police would pull him over onto another side road.”
“It didn’t seem like somebody was trying to cause a mass casualty incident; it felt like somebody was being [an] irresponsible, dangerous jerk.”
The episode shocked the community of more than 70,000 just days before Thanksgiving. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee said in a statement that one of its priests, as well as multiple Waukesha Catholic School students and members of the church, were among those injured.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, which describes itself as a “group of grannies that meet once a week” to practice dance routines for parades, said its members were also injured. “Please keep the Grannies, all those injured, and all those who witnessed this horrible event in your thoughts and prayers,” the group said in a Facebook post.
Scott Walker, former governor of Wisconsin, said his mother attended the parade and watched the SUV drive past. She left before it collided with people, but people soon came running past her, Walker said on Twitter. “She said it felt like the images of people running in NYC on 9/11,” Walker said.
Waukesha is a tightknit city, said Simmons, the Episcopal priest, but one that has not escaped some of the debates dividing communities across the United States. In June, the Waukesha School District board voted to opt out of a federally funded program that would give free meals to all students regardless of family income. Although the board eventually reversed its decision, it led to acrimonious debates among parents and residents, Simmons recalled.
“In Waukesha, we sometimes fight about all sorts of stuff,” he said, “but I do believe that when we hit a situation like this, that we’re able to stand together and stand as a community, and that’s really what I’m expecting to happen over the next day or two.”
What happened “won’t erase those problems, but I do think that we’ll be able to come together to grieve,” Simmons added.
School was canceled Monday for students in the Waukesha School District, the superintendent said in a note, adding that counselors would be provided Monday at school buildings for students in need of support.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) said he and his wife were “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”
Evers said he had ordered U.S. and Wisconsin flags to be flown at half-staff “as we continue to pray for the Waukesha community and the kids, loved ones, and neighbors whose lives were forever changed by an unthinkable tragedy last night.”
Prior charges against Brooks
Prosecutors say they intend to file five charges against Mr Brooks for first-degree intentional homicide in the parade attack.
He was already facing charges from two other incidents in Wisconsin, including:
• Second-degree recklessly endangering safety with domestic abuse assessments
• Disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments
• Felony bail jumping
Parade victim’s organs may be donated to survivors
Mother-of-three Jane Kulich was among the six people killed in Sunday’s parade attack.
Now, her organs could be donated to those injured in the same incident, her sister-in-law Shawn Kulich told People.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Shawn Kulich said. “My brother and his children were so thrilled to learn this news. Some tears from this tragedy have been turned into tears of joy now!!!! I know Jane is smiling for this!”
More than 45 people were injured in the attack, including at least 17 children.
Who are the Waukesha parade victims?
Six people have died in the wake of Sunday’s tragic parade crash. They are:
Tamara Durand – 52
Ms Durand was a member of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies who worked as a hospice and critical care chaplain.
She is survived by her husband, nine children and four grandchildren.
Jane Kulich – 52
Ms Kulich was a mother, grandmother and server at Dave’s Family Restaurant in Waukesha.
She was marching on behalf of Citizens Bank when she was killed.
Wilhelm Hospel – 81
Mr Hospel was at the parade as a volunteer for the Dancing Grannies, as his wife is on the team.
He is survived by his wife, son and three brothers.
Leanna Owen – 71
Ms Owen was a manager at the Packard Glen Apartments as well as a member of the Dancing Grannies.
“This was one of her passions that she truly loved,” the property’s owner told CNN. “She was so proud to be part of this group and lit up when she talked about it.”
Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson – 79
Ms Sorenson was the leader of the Dancing Grannies and a retired nurse. She is survived by her husband.
“Everyone who knew Ginny knows she had a special soul, one that radiated with love,” family members wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Jackson Sparks – 8
Jackson died on Tuesday afternoon after he and his 12-year-old brother Tucker were critically injured in the crash.
Alice Crites, Paulina Firozi, Mark Guarino, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.