WAUKESHA, Wis. (CN) — Police in Waukesha on Monday identified a suspect in custody who they say drove an SUV through a Christmas parade taking place downtown in the small Wisconsin city late Sunday afternoon, leaving five dead and dozens injured.
Waukesha Police Department Chief Dan Thompson identified Darrell Brooks, 39, as the suspect currently in custody during a press conference at Waukesha City Hall on Monday.
Thompson said the department is recommending five counts of first-degree intentional homicide against Brooks at this time, with more charges possible pending further investigation.
The chief said the FBI, ATF, Wisconsin State Patrol and the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, among others, are collaborating on the ongoing investigation.
At around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, a suspect—now alleged to be Brooks—drove a maroon SUV down Main Street in Waukesha during the 58th annual Christmas parade in the suburb 20 miles west of Milwaukee.
Thompson said Monday that Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance just prior to the parade attack. Police were called to that disturbance and arrived minutes after Brooks had left, he said.
Brooks drove through barricades and a squad car blocking off the parade route, Thompson said. The chief clarified that the incident at the Christmas parade was intentional but was not a terrorist attack and did not occur during a police pursuit.
The parade attack resulted in five dead and 48 injured, Thompson said. He and a local hospital official added that multiple children were among those injured.
The deceased victims were identified Monday afternoon in a Waukesha police statement as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
At the press conference Monday, Waukesha Fire Department Chief Steve Howard described the scene of the incident as “carnage” and said those he spoke to with military background described it as being like a war zone.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly painted the bedroom community’s annual holiday celebration as a “Norman Rockwell-type of Christmas parade.”
“Last night, that parade became a nightmare,” the mayor said.
Witness descriptions and onlookers’ cellphone videos have painted a macabre picture of the incident at the Christmas parade, as a joyous holiday celebration with a marching band, dancing children and revelers in Santa hats gave way to a chaotic street strewn with pompoms, spilled hot chocolate and crumpled bodies.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies—a beloved act that has participated in area parades for decades—said in a statement Monday that members of their group were among the dead. At least two of them were later confirmed to be Sorenson and Owens.
According to court records, Brooks currently has two open felony cases in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. He faces two charges of second-degree reckless endangerment with dangerous weapon modifiers and a count of possessing a firearm as a felon in one case from July 2020.
The other, filed on Nov. 5, charges Brooks with felony bail jumping and second-degree reckless endangerment with a domestic abuse modifier, as well as misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct with domestic abuse modifiers and resisting an officer. Related to this case, Brooks was released from custody after posting his $1,000 cash bond on Friday.
The office of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm did not immediately respond Monday afternoon to a request for more information on Brooks’ open cases and his release on bail.
Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper’s office confirmed on Monday that Brooks’ initial court appearance is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday in Waukesha County Circuit Court, at which point initial charges will be filed.
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