Darrell Brooks faces 5 homicide counts in Waukesha parade deaths

November 22, 2021
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WAUKESHA, Wis. — The driver of an SUV that hurtled through a barricade and slammed into a Christmas parade in suburban Waukesha on Sunday was fleeing from a domestic disturbance moments before he killed at least five people and injured more than 40 others, police said.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday that Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, was fleeing a domestic disturbance with a report of a knife when he rammed into the parade. Brooks was not being chased, Thompson said. He will be charged with five counts of intentional homicide, Thompson added.

The deceased victims’ ages range from 52 to 81 years old. Thompson said 48 others were injured in the crash, which was captured on the city’s livestream as the car rammed struck high school band, children’s dance group and the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.

Local hospital officials said earlier Monday at least six children remain in critical condition. Children’s Wisconsin Hospital received 18 patients from the ages of 3 to 16, including three sets of siblings, doctors say.

“Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy. I walked in the parade at the beginning,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said at a news conference. “I saw the happy children sitting on the curb. I saw happy parents behind their children. I can still see the smiling faces.”

Gov. Tony Evers ordered that flags be flown at half staff Monday and on the days when funerals for the victims take place. Evers said he and wife, Kathy, were “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act.” The city of Waukesha said it would hold an interfaith prayer vigil Monday.

Who was the driver of the SUV?

Brooks, 39, a Milwaukee man with an open court case related to domestic violence, was arrested and will face five first-degree intentional homicide charges, Thompson said.

Thompson provided few details of the domestic disturbance to which police were called beyond that there was a report of a knife. He said police did not respond to that scene before they immediately went to the parade. Thompson said Brooks was acting alone and there was no indication of terrorism.

“This is a fluid investigation,” Thompson said.

Brooks has been charged three times in less than two years with recklessly endangering the safety of others, most recently on Nov. 5 as part of a domestic abuse incident for which he was also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer.

In the most recent case, a woman told police Brooks purposefully ran her over with his vehicle while she was walking through a gas station parking lot after he had followed her there after a fight, according to the criminal complaint. The woman was hospitalized, court records show.

Brooks was released from jail on Friday after posting bond in the recent incident, according to court records. He also was charged in July 2020 with two felony counts of second-degree recklessly endangering the safety of others using a dangerous weapon. Both cases are ongoing.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said it has launched an internal review of its “inappropriately low” bail recommendation in the recent domestic violence related case. Brooks posted a $1,000 bond, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.

Suspect named:Suspect in Waukesha Christmas Parade incident has been identified as Darrell Brooks Jr.

What happened at the parade?

Waukesha, a city of 72,000 people just 20 miles west of Milwaukee, was celebrating the holidays with a holiday parade when disaster struck at about 4:39 p.m. local time. Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman, 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.”

SUV slams into Wisconsin Christmas parade; ‘person of interest’ in custody

Thompson said he was at the scene shortly after the crash occurred. “What I saw out of chaos and tragedy was heroes,” he said. “First responders and the community coming together and working together on triaging victims.”

Was there a shooting involved?

A police officer fired gunshots at the SUV in an attempt to stop it but stopped firing due to the size of the crowd, Thompson said. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire. He said police don’t believe any shots were fired from the SUV. The officer who fired the shots was on administrative leave pending an investigation per department policy, Thompson said.

Who were the victims? Fatalities include members of Milwaukee Dancing Grannies

Among the victims of the crash were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and a team member from Citizen Bank who was walking with a parade float.

Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, 79, was a 19-year veteran of the Dancing Grannies, a group of grandmothers in their early 50s to mid-70s who met once a week to practice routines for parades.

“What did she like about it? Everything,” said her husband of 56 years, David Sorenson. “She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform.”

A registered nurse, Ginny Sorenson still worked part time in medical records. At their home in Muskego, she cared for animals, including two horses, chickens, dogs and cats. She used the extra money for the animals and treats for her grandchildren, her daughter Heather Sorenson said. For the Sorensons, the Grannies were an activity for the entire family.

“The Grannies are kind of a really tight unit,” said Beth Krohn, a retired member of the group. “We used to call it a sisterhood.”

At least 18 children treated at hospital

Area hospitals were still treating victims Monday while questions remain about the exact number of injured or deceased.

Those injured suffered serious head injuries, broken bones and scrapes on their faces; six people were operated on Sunday night and two more were in surgery on Monday.

In addition to the six children in critical condition, three others remained in serious condition.

Aurora Medical Center–Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, confirmed it was treating 13 patients early Monday. Of those 13, three people are in “critical” condition, four are in “serious” condition and six are in “fair” condition, according to a statement released by the hospital, which is located about 15 miles away from the scene of the tragedy.

“We are praying for all those impacted, their families and our first responders,” the statement said.

Staff at Children’s Wisconsin said the hospital helped treat a total of 18 kids who were injured at the parade. 

Youth dance team struck

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.

He said his wife and two daughters were almost hit. 

“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.”

White House issues statement of support for victims

President Joe Biden on Monday addressed the tragedy, saying, “An entire community is struggling to cope with the horrific act of violence.”

Biden said his administration was monitoring the situations closely and that he and his family were praying for those affected.

“Our team is in close touch with local officials to offer any support and assistance needed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted. “Our hearts are with the families and the entire community.”

Green Bay Packers grateful to first responders

The Green Bay Packers released a statement Sunday saying the team’s thoughts were with the Waukesha community and “those affected by the terrible, senseless act that took place at the holiday parade.”

“We are grateful for the first responders and others who assisted the injured and comforted those in need,” the statement continued. “We share our condolences with those who 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, Calif. Contributing: Bill Glauber

Christopher Kuhagen, Mary Spicuzza, Molly Beck, Sophie Carson, Evan Casey, Cathy Kozlowicz, Elliot Hughes and Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press



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