WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) – The man suspected of ramming his SUV into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people and injuring 48, had left the scene of a marital dispute minutes earlier the Waukesha police chief said on Monday.
Police Chief Dan Thompson said there was no evidence Sunday’s crash was a terrorist attack or that the suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., knew anyone in the parade.
The chief said police are laying five counts of intentional homicide against Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee.
A cheerful scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pom-poms gave way in an instant on Sunday to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV drove through barricades and hit dancers, musicians and others. Members of a Dancing Grannies club were among those killed, as was an employee of Citizens Bank.
Thompson identified those killed as four women, aged 52 to 79, and one man, 81.
“It looked like models thrown in the air,” said Nicole Schneiter, who was there with her children and grandchildren. “It took a second to register, like, ‘Is this really what we just saw? And then you looked down the road and there were just people lying on the road. “
At least nine patients – mostly children – were listed in critical condition Monday in two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.
Police were not chasing the suspect when he entered the parade route, the chief said, but an officer fired in an attempt to stop him but stopped firing due to danger to others. . The driver was not injured.
Brooks has two criminal cases pending in Milwaukee County. In one case, filed on November 5, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, bail and battery. Records show that a $ 1,000 cash bond was issued on Friday.
In the other case, filed in July 2020, Brooks is charged with reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a firearm.
In the most recent one, a woman told police that Brooks had deliberately run over her with her vehicle in the parking lot of a gas station after a fight. She was hospitalized for her injuries.
The horror was recorded by the city’s livestream and spectators’ cell phones. Video shows the moment the SUV passed through the barricades and includes the apparent sound of several gunshots.
“It was like a war scene walking around there,” said Ken Walter, who had participated in the parade in a hot air balloon basket with his wife and youngest son. “There were these piles of blankets with cops standing above them that you just knew were bodies.”
Walter said he saw a red SUV appear and saw it hit a member of his estate parade contingent, then run straight into members of the Waukesha South High School marching band.
The SUV continued on the parade route. Behind, people were screaming, running, looking for their family and friends and not sure if they were still in danger, he recalls.
“It was like everything was happening in slow motion and I couldn’t hear a thing,” Walter said.
Schneiter said that after taking refuge in a store, she appeared to see bodies on the street, as well as random strollers, chairs, candy and shoes. “Just stuff everywhere,” she said. “You can’t believe this really happened. It was like we were in a movie or something. It was just crazy.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on their Facebook page that their members “did what they loved, performed in front of the crowd in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness.”
“Those who died were extremely passionate grannies. Their eyes were shining… the joy of being a Granny. They were the glue… held us together, ”the organization said.
A Roman Catholic priest, parishioners and Catholic schoolchildren in Waukesha were among those injured, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said.
Eighteen children aged 3 to 16 were brought to Wisconsin Children’s Hospital, including three siblings, said Dr Amy Drendel, medical director of the emergency department. They suffered injuries ranging from scratches on the face to broken bones and serious head injuries, she said. Six were listed in critical condition.
“It’s unique and really demonstrates the devastating effects this has on our community,” said Dr Michael Meyer, head of the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
At the White House, President Joe Biden said “we don’t have all the facts and details yet” but that his administration is monitoring the situation closely.
The Waukesha School District canceled classes Monday and Tuesday and said additional counselors would be available for students and staff. The parade’s programming included cheer, dance and marching band entries associated with schools in the district.
The parade, held annually on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s event, the 59th, was themed “Comfort and Joy”.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on Friday of charges resulting in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of a third during the unrest in this city in August 2020.
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