Darrell E. Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, faces 5 counts of intentional homicide
WAUKESHA, Wis. (WLS) -- Authorities identified the driver of a red SUV that plowed into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin Sunday night, leaving five people dead and more than 40 others injured.
Darrell E. Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, has been charged with five counts of intentional homicide, Waukesha police announced Monday. Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said he intentionally drove through the downtown Christmas parade to get away from a domestic disturbance minutes earlier.
The chief said there was no police pursuit when Brooks drove through the barricades erected for the parade.
"We are confident he acted alone," Thompson said, adding that there is no evidence the incident was a terrorist attack.
Police in Waukesha, Wisconsin said Monday that four women ages 52 to 79, and an 81-year-old man were killed in the deadly crash about 20 miles west of Milwaukee.
Hundreds gathered for a vigil in a nearby park Monday night. Faith leaders, the police chief and the mayor of Waukesha all spoke, often emotionally, as they tried to comfort the crowd so shaken after the tragedy Sunday afternoon.
"I think when things like this happen it's just important to be together in community," said Susan Lewis, Waukesha resident.
Huddled in the bitter cold, the attendees clutched candles as they tried to process the pandemonium of the day before.
"Today our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration," Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said. "My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless act. My heart goes out to all of those injured as well and their families. My heart goes out to all who are victims of these events. My heart goes out to those who lost a loved one tonight."
Shortly after 4:30 p.m., a red SUV drove into the town's Christmas parade, hitting multiple people, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said.
"We saw him swerve right into the children from the baseball team. The parents that were marching with them, the one father of the baseball team, had pushed his child out of the way and he took the blunt end of the vehicle. He went down and all chaos just erupted," said witness, Mark Liepski.
Dylan Porth and his 8-year-old son Mason were near the start of the parade route and watched as Brooks drove his SUV down the middle of the parade route.
"He accelerated, like he intentionally swerved toward the kids," Porth said.
Hundreds had been in attendance at the parade, which had a theme of "comfort and joy."
"So many in our community went to a parade but ended up dealing with injury and heartache," Reilly said. "I pray for all those that were injured, that they recover. I pray for those who lost a loved one."
The city of Waukesha had a fire engine as part of the parade and responded as soon as calls started coming in, fire officials said.
Victims were transported to hospitals via ambulances, police officers and family members, according to officials.
"Some of the individuals are children and are some fatalities as a result of this incident," the police chief said.
The city fire department transported a total of 11 adults and 12 pediatric patients to six area hospitals, officials said. They did not release information regarding specifics of injuries.
Children's Wisconsin hospital said it helped treat 18 children injured in the incident.
Six of those children are in critical condition, doctors said Monday. The ages of those injured range from 3 to 16 years old, including three sets of siblings.
"We received with different levels of injuries; some were conscious, some were not conscious," said Dr. Amy Drendel, the head of the hospital's emergency department.
Injuries ranged from cuts to faces, broken bones to serious head injuries
"I've never seen anything like this before in my life and never want to see it again. It was just horrific," Liepski added. "Watching the poor kids on the back of that truck scream for their mom and dad."
One group from the parade, the "Milwaukee Dancing Grannies" posted to Facebook saying: "The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are devasted by this terrible tradegy 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."
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was also impacted. One of its priests and multiple parishioners were injured.
An officer also discharged his weapon at the suspect vehicle to try and stop it, but no bystanders were injured by the gunfire, Thompson added.
"To the families involved, you are in the Waukesha Police Department's thoughts and prayers. To the Waukesha community, this scene is now safe and secure," the chief said.
Police said there is no current danger to the public.
Police in Waukesha were urging people to avoid the downtown area Monday morning.
A live video feed of the parade from the city of Waukesha showed a red SUV breaking through barriers and speeding into the roadway where the parade was taking place.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was watching the parade with his family when they saw the SUV come speeding into the area.
"Then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are who are struck by the vehicle," Tenorio said. "And then, and then we saw people running away or stopping crying, and there, there are people on the ground who looked like they'd been hit by the vehicle."
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers posted to Twitter saying: "Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act. I'm grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information."
The community is now in mourning, with Waukesha public schools canceling class and making counselors available for all students 4K-12 in wake of the incident.
"Several of our administrative staff and principals met this evening following the tragic event that occurred at the City of Waukesha Christmas Parade. At this time, we are working with the police department to more fully comprehend all of the tragic details of this unfortunate event. As a result of this situation, school will be canceled on Monday, November 22, 2021, for all students in grades 4K - 12. Additionally, 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. A decision on school for Tuesday will be determined during the day on Monday. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted, with all who witnessed the event, and with our entire community," the district said in a statement.
Counseling services are available at Waukesha South.
There is also a family reception center at Waukesha South. If you are looking for family members and live out of town, please call 262-548-7122.
The District will also have bagged lunches available Monday for anyone in the community from noon to 1 p.m. at the main entrances of Butler Middle School, Horning Middle School, Les Paul Middle School, North High School, South High School and West High School.
Main Street is closed from Barstow Street and Main to Wisconsin Avenue and Main; it will not be open before mid-day Monday.
Businesses in the area were asked to remain closed, and flags are at half-staff.
Waukesha City Hall will also be closed Monday.
Waukesha police said those experiencing emotional distress from the incident should call or text 800-985-5990.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.