A 39-year-old career criminal will face multiple homicide counts after allegedly plowing through a Christmas parade on Sunday in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing five people and injuring at least 48 others, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday.
Darrell Brooks acted alone and was fleeing a domestic dispute that occurred moments before he drove through the crowd, according to police.
“He drove right through the barricades and the officers,” Thompson said at a press conference on Monday. “When an officer tried to engage and stop the threat, he still continued through the crowd.”
Thompson emphasized that this was not a terrorist attack and authorities don’t believe that Brooks knew anyone in the parade.
Waukesha District Attorney Susan L. Opper said she expects to file homicide charges against Brooks when he appears in court on Tuesday, and bail should be set so high that he can’t get out of jail before trial.
“We don’t have ‘held without bail’ in Wisconsin, but we will expect to be asking for high cash bail, significant cash bail so that, for all intents and purposes, they don’t have the ability to post it because it’s so much money,” Opper told Fox News Digital.
Thompson said that he referred five counts of first-degree intentional homicide against Brooks to the district attorney. Opper said she is “not committing to anything yet” but her office does expect to file homicide charges.
The five deceased victims are 81-year-old Wilhelm Hospel, 79-year-old Virginia Sorenson, 71-year-old LeAnna Owen, 52-year-old Tamara Durand, and 52-year-old Jane Kulich.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, which describes itself as a “group of grannies that meet once a week to practice routines for summer and winter parades,” said its members are among the five who were killed.
“Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness,” the group said in a statement on Monday. “Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies.”
Children’s Wisconsin said that they are treating 18 kids ranging in age from 3 to 16, including three sets of siblings. Six of the children are in critical condition.
Brayden Kowalski, a 19-year-old man who has spent his whole life in Waukesha, said that he was in front of Mainstream Bar and Grill when he saw the SUV plow through the crowd.
“He’s just blowing through people, kind of just dinging a lot of people, bodies flying everywhere,” Kowalski said. “These people didn’t get run over, they got f—— thrown through the air. Like a lot of people got tossed up into the air.”
Waukesha Fire Chief Steve Howard said that 26 on-duty personnel responded to the “carnage.”
“What stands out in my mind from our conversations, we do have people with military backgrounds and they likened it to a war zone,” Howard said.
Alan Johnson, vice president of critical care at ProHealth Care, said that many staff members from his hospital were already at the parade when tragedy struck.
“Many others rushed to the hospital to help,” Johnson said. “They included nearly every one of our emergency department physicians, countless surgeons and anesthesiologists, hospitalists, and nurses.”
Thompson noted that many Waukesha residents immediately jumped in to help first responders provide medical aid to the wounded.
“Minutes after the incident occurred, I responded to the scene, and what I saw out of chaos and tragedy, was heroes,” Thompson said.
Brooks was apprehended by police soon after stopping the SUV and was not injured. An officer fired his gun to try to stop Brooks but did not strike anyone.
The 39-year-old has a lengthy criminal record that stretches back more than two decades. He just got out of prison earlier this month on a $1,000 bail after allegedly running a woman over in the same SUV that he used to plow through the Christmas parade on Sunday.
Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said that an internal review of that bail recommendation is underway, calling it “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges.”
A prayer vigil will be held at 5 p.m. CT at Cutler Park in Waukesha.