by Marissa Parra and Marie Saavedra

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS) — A 39-year-old man is facing five counts of murder, after plowing into the Waukesha Christmas Parade in Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, on Sunday, killing five people and injuring 48 others.

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Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Darrell Brooks is facing five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and could face additional charges.

Darrell Brooks (Waukesha County Sheriff)

“We are confident he acted alone. There is no evidence that this is a terrorist incident,” he said.

Thompson said Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance with another person at a different location shortly before plowing into the crowd, but there is no evidence he was targeting anyone in the parade. Thompson said police did not have time to respond to the domestic disturbance to investigate before Brooks drove his SUV into the parade, so he could not provide details on the domestic incident on Monday afternoon.

 

Online court records showed a person named Darrell Brooks, with a birthdate making him 39, has two open criminal cases in Milwaukee County. In one case, filed Nov. 5, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless homicide, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery. Records show $1,000 bond was posted on Friday.

Thompson confirmed an officer opened fire on Brooks’ vehicle as the red SUV during the incident to try to stop the vehicle, but stopped firing due to the large crowd at the parade. No one was injured by gunfire, and the officer who opened fire has been placed on administrative leave.

Those who died have been identified as:

  • Virginia Sorenson, 79;
  • LeAnna Owen, 71;
  • Tamara Durand, 52;
  • Jane Kulich, 52;
  • and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

Dr. Alan Johnson, vice president of critical care at ProHealth Care, said 29 victims were brought to Waukesha Memorial Hospital, including several children. After they were treated and stabilized, 11 children were transferred to Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee.

Twelve other victims brought to Waukesha Memorial were treated and released on Sunday, and another person left without being treated, according to Johnson. One other victim died on arrival. Four victims were still being treated at Waukesha Memorial on Monday afternoon, but likely were to be sent home later in the day.

Earlier Monday, Children’s Wisconsin reported treating 18 children who were injured during the parade. Children’s Wisconsin said the children injured ranged in age from 3 to 16 years old and included three sets of siblings.

Health officials said the 18 children treated suffered injuries from facial abrasions and broken bones, to serious head injuries. Six of the patients were sent to surgery last night and two additional patients are undergoing surgery Monday.

Six children remained in critical condition Monday night.

The Waukesha County Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County have teamed up to create a “United for Waukesha Community Fund” to support the needs of the victims and their families. Donations can be made at www.waukeshafoundation.org/parade.

“Last night we experienced a senseless tragedy. Many of us were participants in the parade and witnessed these horrific actions. We are all trying to process what we experienced,” said Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly. “Last night, our wonderful Waukesha Parade became the scene of a horrific tragedy. Last night, that parade became a nightmare. Last night, many were severely injured. Last night, lives were lost during the middle of what should have been a celebration.”

As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported, a candlelight vigil for the victims was held way late Monday at Cutler Park in Waukesha.

“So often, we focus on the perpetrator. So often, we focus on the evil. And when we do that, we completely miss all the people that are helping,” Mayor Reilly said at the vigil. “Waukesha Strong is a good way to put it. We rose to the occasion.”

Waukesha is a close-knit community where it is hard to find anyone not dealing with some kind of grief – be it from the loss of a loved one, fear of the long road of healing ahead, or mourning how quickly the innocence of a holiday parade can be shattered.

At the vigil, it was hard to know what to do next. So the crowd looked to each other – pledging to walk together through their shared grief.

“Waukesha, though, will not be defined by the horrific events of last night,” said Mayor Reilly. “We will help who experienced the loss of a loved one or were injured.”

Debris litters the street at a crime scene on November 21, 2021 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

Performing group the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on Facebook saying their members were among those killed at the parade. The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, who range in age from early 50s to mid 70s, performs in 25 parades a year.

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Owen, Sorensen, and Durand were all members the Dancing Grannies. Sorensen was a choreographer for the group.

“The Dancing Grannies had a place for me here – choreography and being an instructor,” Sorensen said in a past interview. “That’s a really important part of my life.”

In the post, the group stated:

“The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are devastated by this terrible tragedy with of loss of life and injuries in the Waukesha Christmas parade.
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. While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts.
Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed…..joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue….held us together.
Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted . Please keep them their families, friends, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and everyone who lives have forever changed in your thoughts and prayers.”

Durand was a new member of the Dancing Grannies. Her husband, Dave Durand, told the New York Times she was excited for her first performance.

The oldest victim, Hospel, helped out with the Dancing Grannies. Kulich was a worker at Citizens Bank who was walking in the parade.

Meanwhile, among the children who were injured was Jessalyn Torres, according to her uncle. She had gotten all dressed up to perform in the parade.

Thompson said the parade route had been blocked off by a squad car and barricades at the time of the incident, but Brooks “drove right through the barricades and the officers.”

“When the officer tried to engage and stop the threat, he still continued through the crowd,” Thompson said.

Graphic video posted online shows a red SUV drive into the parade, striking a number of people, including members of a high school marching band. Others can be seen running away and screaming as the SUV continued on while others run to the aid of victims lying in the road.

“Today we experienced a horrible senseless tragedy,” Reilly said Sunday night. “My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless act. “

Photos posted by CBS 58 Milwaukee show what appears to be the red SUV parked outside a home after the incident.

Brooks was arrested shortly after plowing into the crowd, and his SUV was recovered from 338 Maple Ave.

Richard Laux lives nearby.

“There were probably 75 officers, FBI, SWAT teams around,” Laux said. “The vehicle actually went through our parking lot, across the yard right there, to the backside of that adjacent house.”

The front-end damage on the SUV was visible as it was towed away. And to think of what caused each dent in the metal is enough to break this city’s heart.

“My son David and a niece were in the band and some of their friends were down, so it’s really tough,” Laux said.

Credit: Abby Brinkman

Another video posted on Twitter showed a number small groupings on the street providing aid to injured individuals lying on the ground.

Thompson said some of those injured were taken by police to hospitals, and others were taken by family members.

A witness who was at the parade described the scene, saying many of those injured were in parade costumes.

“I could see kids on the ground, little bodies on the street. I’m still in shock.”

Police asked anyone who might have video footage of the incident to provide it online at https://forms.gle/xVKV6n9JbwUNjwvC8.

The School District of Waukesha canceled classes for all students on Monday and Tuesday, and classes will resume next Monday, after the Thanksgiving break. There will also be additional counselors available during the school day this week at all buildings for students who need support.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee addressed the tragedy with the following statement:

Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha.
Among the injured are one of our Catholic priests, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children.
Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.

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The city of Waukesha also has set up a Friends and Family Resource Center at Carroll University in the Campus Center ballroom for all the victims from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The District Attorney Victim Assistance Program is also available to assist. You can email help4victims@da.wi.gov

CBS 2 Chicago Staff