Dennis Romero et al., NBC News, November 22, 2021
A Wisconsin man was arrested and accused of driving an SUV into crowds at the Waukesha Christmas parade on the city’s Main Street, as revelers watched in horror, officials said Monday.
Darrell E. Brooks, 39, was booked on suspicion of five counts of intentional homicide, Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson told reporters.
City officials identified the four women and one man killed as Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
There were 48 additional injuries, which included two children in critical condition, police said.
At 4:39 p.m. CST on Sunday Brooks “intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades and into a crowd of people,” Thompson said.
Brooks was involved in a domestic incident involving a knife before the crash, but it’s not clear who the victim was, law enforcement sources told NBC News.
Brooks had fled scene of that domestic disturbance just as officers were arriving and then got redirected to the parade, police said.
An officer opened fire on the SUV but quickly stopped shooting, believing there were too many people nearby, according to Thompson. No was was hit by gunfire.
Brooks was taken into custody shortly after the fatal collisions.
“We’re confident he acted alone,” Thompson said of Brooks. “We have no information that Brooks knew anybody in the parade.”
The popular community event attracted many off-duty police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel who jumped into action as soon as the carnage unfolded, officials said.
“What stands out in my mind from the conversations is that we had people with military backgrounds who likened it to a war zone,” Waukesha Fire Chief Steven Howard said.
The suspect has a significant criminal history was questioned overnight, with investigators probing the possibility that the driver had been fleeing an earlier incident involving a knife fight.
On Monday, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office released a summary of pending charges against Brooks, which include charges of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and felon in possession of a firearm from July 2020.
In lieu of a speedy trial, which wasn’t possible at the time, his bail was reduced from $7,500 to $500 on those charges. He posted bail in February and was released.
Brooks had posted bail earlier this month in a separate domestic abuse case, court records show.
He’s charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, bail jumping recklessly, endangering safety, disorderly conduct and battery, the records show. He appeared in court on Nov. 12 and is scheduled for another hearing next month.
He had posted a $1,000 cash bond on Nov. 11, the court records show.