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Authorities identify the driver of SUV they say drove into Waukesha parade that killed 5 and injured more than 40

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Authorities identify the driver of SUV they say drove into Waukesha parade that killed 5 and injured more than 40

2021-11-23 02:50:58

By Ravi Kumar  Image Source: Screen Shot

Authorities in Wisconsin have identified the driver of a red SUV who they say intentionally drove his SUV through barricades and into a crowd celebrating the Waukesha Christmas parade.

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."

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."

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 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.

The celebratory sounds of a Wisconsin Christmas parade were interrupted by terrified screams Sunday after a vehicle plowed into participants and spectators gathered for the event in Waukesha, a city about 20 miles west of downtown Milwaukee.

Five people were killed and more than 40 were injured in the chaos, city officials said, as authorities confirmed the identity of the suspect.

Police stressed there was no police pursuit leading up to the incident. 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. 

Crowds were bundled up along Main Street to enjoy the parade when a red SUV drove through a series of barricades and barreled onto the parade route around 4:39 p.m. CT, police Chief Daniel Thompson said.

A video of the parade recorded by Angela O'Boyle, who was watching from her fifth-story apartment balcony, shows the SUV hitting an individual in a marching band. The vehicle then continues forward, hitting and running over others in the band and crowd before driving away. People can be heard screaming and seen running for safety as the SUV continues its path.

Video of the parade published on the city's Facebook page shows a red SUV driving quickly through the parade, followed by a running police officer.

A Waukesha police officer fired their weapon in an attempt to stop the driver, Thompson said. No bystanders were struck by the officer's gunfire, the chief added, noting he doesn't believe any shots were fired from the SUV. Officers and citizens took victims to the hospital in their personal vehicles, Thompson said.

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.Brooks was released on $1,000 bail earlier this month, according to court records and the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office, which said in a statement that the bail had been set "inappropriately low."

Brooks posted the bail on November 11 in relation to charges including domestic abuse. The charges stemmed from a November 2 incident in which Brooks is accused of running over a woman with his car while she was walking through a gas station parking lot, according to a criminal complaint. "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."

Speaking from the White House on Monday, President Joe Biden offered prayers for the community and called the tragic events a "horrific act of violence."

"While we don't have all the facts and details yet, we know this morning that five families in Waukesha are facing fresh grief of a life without a loved one. At least 40 Americans are suffering from injuries, some of them in critical condition, and an entire community is struggling, struggling to cope with the horrific act of violence," Biden said.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered all flags be flown at half-staff at "all buildings, grounds and military installations" across the state, to honor those who were killed and injured at the Waukesha parade, according to a statement released by the governor's office.

"While much is still unknown, including the full extent of injuries and the number of lives lost" the statement added, "the people of Wisconsin pray for the Waukesha community and all those affected, and mourn the loss of life that occurred as a result of this senseless tragedy."

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