• The San Juan Daily Star

Suspect in custody in deadly Wisconsin parade incident

Police collect abandoned items along a parade route in Waukesha, Wis., on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, after the driver of an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade on Sunday. The police had a person of interest in custody on Monday after the driver of a red SUV barreled through the parade, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40 others.

By Dan Simmons, Mitch Smith, Robert Chiarito and Glenn Thrush

Darrell E. Brooks, a 39-year-old Milwaukee man, faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide after authorities said he drove a red SUV into a Christmas parade Sunday, killing at least five adults and injuring more than 40 others, including more than a dozen children.

The dead ranged in age from 52 to 81, Dan Thompson, chief of the Waukesha Police Department, told reporters Monday.

Brooks steered the SUV through barricades, ignoring the warnings of officers posted to protect the parade, moments after leaving the scene of a domestic disturbance, Thompson said.

The incident was not related to terrorism, and Brooks was not being pursued by police at the time, he added. He was captured shortly after speeding away from the scene, according to the chief, who said he was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.

A police officer fired shots at Brooks’ vehicle, but “due to the amount of people” at the parade had to stop. No bystanders were struck, Thompson said.

“We have no information that Brooks knew anyone in the parade,” Thompson added.

Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail in an earlier criminal case, in which he was accused of running over the mother of his child in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station with his maroon 2010 Ford Escape earlier this month. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office Monday described the state’s bail recommendation in that earlier case as “inappropriately low” in light of the seriousness of the charges and “not consistent” with office policy.

“This office is currently conducting an internal review of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation in this matter in order to determine the appropriate next steps,” the statement said.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said President Joe Biden was receiving regular updates on the tragedy.

“Our team is in close touch with local officials to offer any support and assistance needed,” she said on Twitter. “Our hearts are with the families and the entire community.”

It was supposed to have been a celebratory night in Waukesha. Dance groups and high school bands and politicians were marching along Main Street in the Milwaukee suburb’s Christmas parade, which was returning from a pandemic hiatus.

Then, just before 4:40 p.m., the driver of a red SUV, said to be a Ford Escape, stormed past barricades and into the crowd, striking dozens. City authorities said in a statement late Sunday that the number of dead and injured could change.

Area hospitals reported treating dozens of patients, including many children. It was unclear what might have motivated the episode.

“Today our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration,” said Mayor Shawn Reilly, who described seeing smiling children and happy parents when he marched along the parade route earlier Sunday. “I’m deeply saddened to know that so many in our community went to a parade but ended up dealing with injury and heartache.”

Officials at Children’s Wisconsin, which treats only pediatric patients, said in a news conference Monday that it had treated 18 who were injured in the parade, including three sets of siblings. Of those 18 children, six are in critical condition, three are in serious condition, seven are in fair condition, and two have been discharged.

Another hospital, Aurora Medical Center–Summit, said in a statement that it was treating 13 patients, including three in critical condition. Officials at Froedtert Hospital said Monday they had treated seven patients.

This was the 58th Christmas parade for Waukesha, an annual event that was canceled last year because of the pandemic. The theme of this year’s event was “Comfort and Joy.”

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