Police have taken one suspect into custody after a vehicle drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday afternoon, leaving at least five people dead and more than 40 injured, including children, authorities said.
Dozens of emergency officials responded after the incident around 4:40 p.m. local time. A livestream video of the event appears to show a red SUV speeding through the parade route, troubling those gathered on the street. A police vehicle is seen rushing through the crowd soon afterward before the attendees begin to disperse.
Waukesha police said Monday morning that they have identified Darrell Brooks, 39, as the suspect in the incident and that he’d fled the scene of a domestic disturbance minutes before plowing through the holiday gathering. He is expected to face five counts of first-degree homicide when he appears in court Tuesday afternoon.
“We are confident he acted alone,” Police Chief Dan Thompson said. “There is no evident that this is a terror incident.”
The deceased range in age from 52 to 81, according to police.
Officials from Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee said Monday that the hospital had received 18 children, including three sets of siblings, for treatment and has discharged two of them. Ten kids are being treated in the intensive care unit, with six in critical condition. Their injuries include facial abrasions, broken bones and serious head injuries.
Those on the scene described a festive atmosphere that quickly turned tragic after the car careened through safety barricades set up along the city’s Main Street. More than 60 groups had gathered for this year’s event after the 2020 celebration was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we were walking back ... we saw an SUV cross over, just put the pedal to the metal and just zooming full speed along the parade route,” Angelito Tenorio, an alderman for West Allis, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle.”
He said he saw people running from the scene crying, and people on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the car.
Local reporters said it appeared that multiple people were on the ground shortly after the incident. Thompson said an officer discharged his weapon at the suspect’s vehicle, but there was no more evidence so far of any other gunfire.
Many families were at the event with young children, as were groups affiliated with local schools including a high school marching band. The Milwaukee Archdiocese said one of its priests was injured, as were “multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children.”
Corey Montiho, a member of the Waukesha School Board, told the Journal Sentinel his daughter’s dance team was marching in the parade and that many members were hit by the SUV.
“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 told reporter Molly Beck. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit.”
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a self-described “group of grannies” that marches in about 25 parades a year, said members were participating in Sunday’s event and impacted by the vehicle, but didn’t have any more information.
Kaylee Staral, an intern at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who was at the parade, told CNN that the SUV came “running down the middle of the street” and hit “a lot of people.”
“After the SUV left, there were multiple people on the ground, and the police came through a little later saying at least 30 on the ground,” Staral said, noting that the car was going “very fast.”
The Waukesha Christmas Parade, held about 17 miles west of downtown Milwaukee, is an annual event that has been held for more than 50 years.
Photos posted on the city’s Instagram account showed many people sitting on the curb just off the parade route.
The theme this year was “comfort and joy.”
Members of the community gathered in Waukesha’s Cutler Park to hold a vigil Monday night, with trucks blocking road entrances to the area as an extra precaution. Local reports estimated that hundreds of people assembled to honor the victims.
Wisconsin has been on edge since the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who on Friday was found not guilty in the killing of two people during a demonstration last summer over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Protests following the verdict have been largely peaceful in Kenosha, where the trial was held.