What we know about what happened at the Wisconsin Christmas parade
The celebratory sounds of a Wisconsin Christmas parade were interrupted by terrified screams Sunday after a vehicle plowed into participants and spectators gathered for the event in Waukesha, a city about 20 miles west of downtown Milwaukee.
Here’s what we know about how events unfolded:
What happened during the parade
Crowds were bundled up along Main Street to enjoy the parade when a red SUV drove through a series of barricades and barreled onto the parade route around 4:39 p.m. CT, police Chief Daniel Thompson said.
A video of the parade recorded by Angela O’Boyle, who was watching from her fifth-story apartment balcony, shows the SUV hitting an individual in a marching band. The vehicle then continues forward, hitting and running over others in the band and crowd before driving away.
People can be heard screaming and seen running for safety as the SUV continues its path.
Video of the parade published on the city’s Facebook page shows a red SUV driving quickly through the parade, followed by a running police officer.
A Waukesha police officer fired their weapon in an attempt to stop the driver, Thompson said. No bystanders were struck by the officer’s gunfire, the chief added, noting he doesn’t believe any shots were fired from the SUV.
Officers and citizens took victims to the hospital in their personal vehicles, Thompson said.
Where the investigation stands
The driver has been identified as Darrell E. Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, Thompson said Monday afternoon at a news conference.
Police have recommended five charges of intentional homicide. Prosecutors in the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office said they will review the matter with police and expect to file initial charges Tuesday. Brooks will make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.
Additional charges could be filed when more is known about the people who were injured, prosecutors said.
The chief said no motive is known. Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday and left the scene just before driving his SUV through the parade, Thompson said.
“We are confident he acted alone,” Thompson said. “There is no evidence this is a terrorist incident.”
Brooks was out on bail, according to court records and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office.
Brooks posted a $1,000 bond on November 11 in relation to charges including domestic abuse. That incident also involved Brooks being accused of using a car to cause an injury, according to a criminal complaint.
Brooks also has an outstanding arrest warrant in Nevada in an unrelated case in August 2016 for which he was arrested and allegedly jumped bail, according to Sara Johns, Washoe County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson. CNN has reached out to a previous attorney for Brooks with no response.
CNN reached out to Brooks’ attorney from that case but has not yet received a response.
Thompson said the SUV was identified shortly after it ran through the parade and Brooks was quickly arrested. He was not injured, Thompson said.
Special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have responded to assist the Waukesha Police Department, according to Erik Longnecker, a spokesperson for the ATF.
Who was injured and killed
The five deceased victims were identified as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
Among the injured are members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a Catholic priest, multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren, according to Sandra Peterson, the communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene,” Peterson said in a statement. Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, received 18 injured children ranging in age from 3 to 16, Amy Drendel, director of the Emergency Department and Trauma Center, said at a news conference.
“Injuries ranged from facial abrasions to broken bones to serious head injuries. Six of these patients were sent to the operating room last night and two additional patients are undergoing surgeries today,” Drendel said.
Three sets of siblings are among the patients, Drendel said.
As of Monday, two children were discharged from the hospital, said Dr. Michael Meyer, medical director for the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
CNN’s Natasha Chen reported 10 of the children were treated in intensive care.
CNN reported earlier that 15 patients total were being treated there.
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, told CNN on Sunday night it was treating 13 patients: three listed in critical condition, four in serious condition and six in fair condition. “We are deeply saddened by today’s senseless tragedy and our hearts are with the Waukesha community,” a statement from the hospital said.
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee — the only Level I trauma center in southeast Wisconsin — treated seven patients, said Nalissa Wienke, senior media relations specialist for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. Level I trauma centers care for the most critically ill patients.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted a statement on Facebook, saying members of the group were among the dead. “Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies,” according to the group’s statement.
Their statement did not mention how many members of the group were involved.
The School District of Waukesha canceled classes through Tuesday, according to the district.
“The District will have additional counselors available during the school day at all buildings for all students that may be in need of support services,” school officials said in a statement.
How witnesses described what happened
O’Boyle, who recorded the events from her balcony, told CNN she was watching the parade when “the next thing I heard were screams, and turned my head and saw the car come and plow into the band that was just pass my balcony at that point.
“It hit at least two people right away and rolled over them. And then continued down the road to People’s Park which is at the end of the block — and then kept going, it didn’t stop.”
O’Boyle said she heard screaming and people yelling out their children’s names, adding “it was not something that I wanted to see … a little freaked out.”
Angelito Tenorio, who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer and was campaigning at the parade, said the scene was “absolutely chaotic.”
“Nobody knew if this was an attack or if this was an accident or if it was a deliberate attack on the people of the parade,” he said in an interview with CNN. “People just started fleeing, running away from the scene, leaving behind their belongings, grabbing their children, calling, screaming, looking for their loved ones.
“And when the crowd cleared out, that’s when it looked like I saw people, who appeared to be lying in the middle of the street, lying still, lying lifeless.”
Biden offers prayers for the community
Speaking from the White House on Monday, President Joe Biden offered prayers for the community and called the tragic events a “horrific act of violence.”
“While we don’t have all the facts and details yet, we know this morning that five families in Waukesha are facing fresh grief of a life without a loved one. At least 40 Americans are suffering from injuries, some of them in critical condition, and an entire community is struggling, struggling to cope with the horrific act of violence,” Biden said.
Gov. Tony Evers ordered all flags be flown at half-staff at “all buildings, grounds and military installations” across the state, to honor those who were killed and injured at the Waukesha parade, according to a statement released by the governor’s office.
“While much is still unknown, including the full extent of injuries and the number of lives lost” the statement added, “the people of Wisconsin pray for the Waukesha community and all those affected, and mourn the loss of life that occurred as a result of this senseless tragedy.”
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