Waukesha: What happened at the Wisconsin Christmas parade?

Suspect in custody after SUV ploughs into holiday revellers, killing at least six and injuring 48

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 24 November 2021 12:21 GMT
Waukesha police chief on ‘tragic’ scene after SUV hits Christmas parade crowd
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The Wisconsin city of Waukesha is in shock after a car ploughed into a Christmas parade at high speed at 4.39pm on Sunday, killing at least six people and injuring 48 more.

The red Ford Escape SUV was captured on video driving straight towards marching cheerleaders and band members at around 40mph, hitting around 20 people and causing the crowd that had assembled to enjoy the 58th Annual Waukesha Holiday Parade to disperse in panic.

Local police chief Dan Thompson said in a press conference that his department had taken one person of interest into custody and seized the SUV but that he did not yet know whether the driver’s actions had any connection to terrorism.

The suspect has since been named as Milwaukee man Darrell Edward Brooks Jr, 39, who had only been out on bail for two days after being arrested on 5 November on charges of domestic abuse, resisting an officer, second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping. He has been convicted of several criminal offences since 1999.

Mr Brooks is prolific on social media and raps under the name of MathBoi Fly. A vehicle similar to the one involved in the Waukesha attack is visible in “Half a Tikket”, one of his music videos on YouTube.

He now faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, police said.

Witnesses to the atrocity on Sunday described the car as having accelerated along the parade route and “going from side to side, targeting people”.

“The car bombed through. He was flying through there going intentionally from left to right,” bystander Tyler Kotlarek told The New York Times.

Angelito Tenorio, an alderman in nearby West Allis, told the Associated Press that the driver “just put the pedal to the metal”.

“Then we heard a loud bang,” he continued. “And after that, we just heard deafening cries and screams from the crowd, from the people at the parade. And people started rushing, running away with tears in their eyes crying.”

Chief Thompson said the driver had not fired a weapon, contrary to early reports, but said one of his officers had shot at the car in an attempt to bring it to a halt.

Four senior law enforcement officials have meanwhile told NBC News that investigators were examining the possibility that the suspect had been fleeing from an earlier incident involving a knife fight when he ran into the parade.

Darrell Brooks Jr, 39, was taken into custody on Sunday night
Darrell Brooks Jr, 39, was taken into custody on Sunday night (Department of Justice)

Children’s Wisconsin, a local pediatric hospital, said it had received 15 patients as of last night and that there were no fatalities among that number.

A Catholic community group wrote on its Facebook page that several of its parishioners had been injured and hospitalised, as did a collective known as the “Milwaukee Dancing Grannies”, whose members aged between 50-70 had been taking part in the festivities.

“Members of the group and volunteers were impacted and we are waiting for word on their conditions,” a post read.

“Please keep the Grannies, all those injured, and all those who witnessed this horrible event in your thoughts and prayers.”

The city’s mayor, Shawn Reilly, said the community had faced “horror and tragedy” on what should have been a day of celebration, while state governor Tony Evers tweeted that he was “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act”, praising first responders at the scene.

Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul tweeted: “What took place in Waukesha today is sickening, and I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice.”

The White House said it was “closely monitoring the situation” and offered support and assistance to local officers.

Another eyewitness named Corey Montiho, whose daughter was hit by the vehicle, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “there 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 added: “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.”

Agents of the FBI and ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau) are assisting the Waukesha Police Department with its investigation into the incident and a family reunification centre was set up at the Metro Transit Center on Bank Street.

A shelter-in-place order was texted out to local citizens on Sunday night and parts of the city including Main Street and Barstow Street remain closed off to the public until at least midday on Monday as the investigation continues.

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