WAUKESHA, Wis. — Prosecutors in Wisconsin on Tuesday charged a man with intentional homicide in the deaths of five people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade that also left 62 people injured, including many children.
Prosecutors say a sixth person, a child, has died and more charges are pending.
Darrell Brooks Jr. was charged with five counts of intentional homicide in the crash Sunday in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Conviction on first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence, Wisconsin’s stiffest penalty.
Brooks made his initial appearance in court Tuesday. He could be heard crying during the proceeding, leaning over with his head nearly in his lap, with his attorney resting a hand on his back.
The city’s livestream video and bystander video captured the chaotic scene when an SUV sped along the parade route and then into the crowd. Several of those injured remain in critical condition.
According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told police that the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” with no attempt to slow down or stop as it struck multiple people and sent bodies and objects flying.
The criminal complaint said a police officer shot at the vehicle, striking it three times, and a detective stepped in front of Brooks’ vehicle and pounded on the hood, shouting “Stop,” several times but Brooks drove past him. The complaint said the detective was wearing police insignia and a neon orange safety vest.
A video obtained Tuesday by NewsNation appears to show Brooks pleading for help at a nearby home after the crash.
A person resembling Brooks, wearing a T-shirt and shivering, can be seen knocking on the home’s front door. A timestamp on the video shows that it was recorded just after 5 p.m. local time, about 20 minutes after he allegedly plowed through the parade.
“I called an Uber and I’m supposed to be waiting for it over here, but I don’t know when it’s coming,” he can be heard saying. “Can you call it for me please? I’m homeless.”
The video also shows authorities arriving at the Waukesha home and telling Brooks to put his hands up.
Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail for a case in Milwaukee County earlier in November in which he’s accused of intentionally striking a woman with his car. Prosecutors said they’re investigating their bail recommendation in that case, calling it inappropriately low.
One pending case against Brooks included an allegation that he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November after a fight. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County on Monday called their bail recommendation “inappropriately low” given the facts of that case and the Sunday crash, and said they would review it.
Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former assistant prosecutor, said the bail could easily have been set more than twice as high.
“He was accused of running over the mother of his kid, and to put it at $1,000 strikes me as low,” Kim said. “It could have been an inexperienced attorney who happened to be reviewing cases that day.”
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier and was not being chased by police at the time of the crash.
“It was horrific. I’ve never been part of anything like that,” said Sandra Hollander, a parade bystander on “Morning in America” Monday. “We are just speechless … a holiday tradition that is meant to bring unity and joy to the community has been painted like this.”
Investigators are still trying to figure out how the tragedy happened. Nick Smith breaks down what we know at the NewsNation smartboard.
Brooks has been charged with crimes 16 times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the Nov. 2 incident.
Thompson, the police chief, said there was no evidence the bloodshed Sunday was a terrorist attack or that Brooks knew anyone in the parade. Brooks acted alone, the chief said.
Brooks is an aspiring rapper. On a YouTube page, a video that has since been removed showed him rapping in front of a red Ford SUV resembling the one at the parade. The rapper uses the name MathBoi Fly on his Twitter and other social media accounts.
Police identified those killed as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81. Sorenson, Owen and Durand were members the Dancing Grannies club, and Hospel helped out with the group.
At least nine patients, most of them children, were in critical condition Monday at two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.
Hundreds gathered at a downtown park Monday night in Waukesha for a candlelight vigil in honor of the parade crash victims. A pair of clergy solemnly read the names of those who died. Volunteers handed out sandwiches, hot chocolate and candles at the vigil, which was attended by interfaith leaders and elected officials.
“We are parents. We are neighbors. We are hurting. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are thankful. We are all in this together. We are Waukesha Strong,” said a tearful Amanda Medina Roddy with the Waukesha school district.
The chief said that police weren’t pursuing Brooks before he entered the parade route, but an officer did fire a shot to try to stop him. The officer stopped firing because of the danger to others. Brooks was not injured.
Mayor Shawn Reilly described the parade as a “Norman Rockwell-type” event that “became a nightmare.”