MILWAUKEE — An SUV sped into a Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, leaving multiple people dead and at least 20 people injured, authorities said Sunday.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said the investigation was ongoing, but that a “suspect vehicle” was recovered and that there is a person of interest in custody at the moment.
Some of the injured were taken by police to hospitals, and others were taken by family members, Thompson said, describing the incidentas “very tragic” and “very chaotic.”He said he didn’t have an exact number of those killed, but that there were fatalities.
11 adults and 12 children were transported to local hospitals by the Waukesha Fire Department, Fire Chief Steve Howard said at a news conference.
Police in Waukesha, located about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, said the scene is now safe and secure. .
The incident occurred during one of the city’s biggest and most cherished annual events as the red SUV barreled down the street, plowing into parade participants.
Videos posted to social media, including a live feed of the parade operated by the City of Waukesha, show a red SUV breaking through barriers and speeding into the roadway where the parade was taking place.
A police officer fired gunshots at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, Thompson said, and no bystanders were injured by the gunfire. He said police don’t believe any shots were fired from the SUV.
In the city’s footage, taken from a distance, the SUV speeds into the parade just behind a school marching band. A reporter at the scene said that a red SUV came barreling down the street, and the crowd could hear the thuds as it struck people, leaving many on the ground.
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, said his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV.
“They were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,” he said. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”
“My family is safe but many are not. I held one little girl’s head in my hand, she was seizing and she was bleeding out of her ears. I held her mother as she collapsed. Please pray.”
Thompson said it’s unknown if the incident is connected to terrorism.
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‘Deafening cries and screams’: Witness describes the chaotic scene
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he had just finished marching in the parade with his family and friends before he saw the car drive through the parade.
“We saw an SUV cross over, just put the pedal to the metal and just zooming full speed along the parade route,” Tenorio said. “And then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle. And then we saw people running away or stopping crying, and there are people on the ground who looked like they’d been hit by the vehicle.”
Tenorio said he saw about 10 people, children and adults, on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the vehicle.
He added, “It just all happened so fast.”
Alderman Don Paul Browne said he had been marching in the front of the parade and was almost home when his wife texted asking if he was okay.
“I am in shock,” he said. “This parade draws people from all over, even Jefferson County. I am numb. It is pretty upsetting.”
He added, “My inclination was to try to help, but that may be the last thing the police would need. The best I can do is be a source for people. We have to worry about shootings now. It breaks my heart.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, were “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act.”
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, who was at the parade but left just before the incident, called it “an unspeakable tragedy, affecting us all as we work to overcome an extremely challenging two years and resume our cherished holiday traditions.”
The parade is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s edition was the 59th of the event that’s held each year the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles north of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday of charges stemming from the shooting of three men during unrest in that city in August 2020.
Contributing: Cathy Kozlowicz and Kaylee Staral, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press