Six dead, more than 60 injured after vehicle ploughs through Waukesha Christmas parade in Wisconsin, US
On Sunday, 21 November 2021 around 16h39, the driver of a red Ford Escape SUV killed six people and injured 62 others when he hit and ran over participants and observers at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, a western suburb of Milwaukee in Wisconsin, US. The driver of the SUV drove at about 60km/h, broke through barricades and drove through the annual Christmas parade. One police officer banged on the hood of the SUV in an attempt to get the driver to stop. Another officer then fired his gun in an attempt to stop the vehicle. The suspected driver of the vehicle, 39-year-old Darrell E Brooks, was arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Authorities have not established a motive for the attack.
The parade was being livestreamed and other attendees captured the incident on videos that were later posted to social media. Two eyewitnesses told reporters that the driver did not stop initially and all they could hear was people screaming and crying. Others recounted that the driver seemed calm and was weaving across the road. On 23 November 2021, Police reported that Brooks deliberately targeted the crowd, driving in a "zig-zag pattern" to hit as many people as possible.
During the immediate aftermath of the ramming, five people were confirmed killed and 48 others were injured. They were identified as four women and one man. Hospitals admitted 28 people and nine were in critical condition.
By 23 November 2021, the number of reported injuries had increased to 62 and the number of fatalities had increased to six after an eight-year-old child died at a hospital. Seventeen more children were among the wounded. Prosecutors said a total of 13 children remain hospitalised. The ages of the dead ranged from 8 to 81.
Three of the dead were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a dance group composed solely of grandmothers. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said that parishioners, students and a priest from a local Catholic school were injured.
Fire chief Steven Howard told reporters that his department had taken 11 adults and 12 children to nearby hospitals after the incident.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff across the state in honour of the victims. Waukesha's public schools will be closed on Monday and counselling services have been made available to those affected. A community fund has been created to help victims of the incident.
The suspect appeared to have been fleeing another scene, possibly a knife fight, when he ran into people at the parade, the law enforcement official, who is familiar with the early findings of the investigation, told media.
Local resident Angelito Tenorio told local media he had just finished marching in the parade when the SUV "put the pedal to the metal and just [started] zooming full speed along the parade route" at about 16h40 on Sunday. "Then we heard a loud bang and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle," he said.
Corey Montiho said his daughter's dance team was 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 media.
Sarah Saldivar, who was at the parade with her two young children, told media she saw "a red blur" and then saw "little girls flying through the air”.
On the same day as the Waukesha attack, Police recovered a damaged SUV and arrested 39-year-old Darrell Edward Brooks Jr. He had been arrested 21 days prior to the Waukesha attack for hitting his ex-girlfriend with the same SUV during a domestic dispute. The charges against him for that case include second-degree recklessly endangering safety with domestic abuse assessments, a felony, as well as, disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments; misdemeanour battery with domestic abuse assessments and obstructing an officer. He posted $1 000 bail on 23 November 2021, two days before the Waukesha attack and was released. Brooks also has a warrant for a sex crime in Nevada.
Brooks was arrested the night of the attack while attempting to call an Uber after disguising himself. Brooks has been charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Following the death of a sixth victim, Brooks's bond was set at $5 million and he remains in custody, following an initial court appearance. The Waukesha County District Attorney has said more charges are likely to come.
Sources: BBC, NBC News, Washington Post, Daily Mail, Associated Press