Waukesha parade suspect Darrell Brooks charged with intentional homicide; child marks 6th death

Ring camera captures Darrell Brooks after parade crash, before arrest

ByLiz Nagy, Tre Ward, and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Boy, 8, ID'd as youngest Waukesha parade victim
During the suspect's court appearance Tuesday, prosecutors announced that a 6th person, a child, has died from their injuries.

WAUKESHA, Wis. (WLS) -- The man charged with driving through the Waukesha Christmas parade in Wisconsin Sunday night, leaving six people dead and 61 others injured, made his first court appearance Tuesday. The suspect was free on $1,000 bail posted just two days before the deadly event, a fact that is leading to a review of what happened and renewed calls for giving judges more power to set higher bails.

"The nature of this offense is shocking," the judge said.

Darrell E. Brooks Jr., 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.

During his court appearance, prosecutors announced that a 6th person, a child, has died from their injuries. Jackson Sparks, 8, died Monday, according to WISN.

Thirteeen other children remain hospitalized as of Tuesday night, according to Children's Wisconsin.

Brooks appeared to break down in court Tuesday as he heard he is now accused of killing a child.

According to a court complaint, Brooks first brushed a police detective, who "pounded on the driver's side door yelling, 'stop.''

WATCH: Darrell Brooks makes 1st court appearance

Darrell Brooks, of Milwaukee, is charged in the Waukesha Christmas parade crash that left six dead and 61 others hurt.

Brooks did not stop but allegedly drove into the parade procession while the detective gave chase. He then allegedly sped up and the detective "heard on the police radio that the vehicle was striking people," the complaint said.

"While the defendant was driving westbound on East Main Street, he struck numerous pedestrians, which included both parade participants and spectators located on the side of the street," the complaint said.

An officer who saw Brooks "observed the driver looking straight ahead, directly at him, and it appeared he had no emotion on his face" as he drove about 25 miles per hour, speeding up and honking his horn as the officer yelled for him to stop.

"The vehicle then appeared to rapidly accelerate," the complaint said. The officer "heard tires squeal" as the SUV took an abrupt turn into the crowd.

"At this point, it was clear to Officer Butryn that this was an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible," the complaint said.

Brooks' bail has been set at $5 million, which would have to be paid full in cash, and an additional homicide charge is expected. His next court appearance is scheduled for January.

New Video Shows Darrell Brooks After Parade Crash

While this community continues to mourn the loss of six people, there is new video showing the suspect apparently seeking help before police made the arrest.

Doorbell video captured Brooks knocking on a man's front door while on the run from police Sunday.

The video was recorded Sunday by the Ring camera at Daniel Rider's home in downtown Waukesha.

Darrell Brooks, of Milwaukee, is charged in the Waukesha Christmas parade crash that left six dead and 61 others hurt.

Rider said he was watching football when Brooks rang his doorbell, claiming he was homeless and asked to use Rider's phone to call an Uber.

This, as sirens can be heard closing in.

"I called a Uber, and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here but I don't know when it's coming. Can you call it for me, please," Brooks is heard on the video as he knocked on Rider's door.

The 24-year-old invited Brooks in, and gave him food and a jacket, then let him use his phone.

Rider said he was still unaware of the deadly parade crash.

"Keep in mind the whole time he had my phone, so my shelter in place and a suspect on the loose messages, I wasn't seeing them," Rider told CNN. "I had no idea anything had happened."

He asked Brooks to leave after he saw police on his street but said the man returned, claiming he left his ID in the house. That's when police showed up and arrested Brooks.

"A minute later, he's pounding on the door saying, 'Let me back in. I left my ID. My ID is in there. Let me back in.' And I'm looking for it as I say, 'no, you stay out there. I'll look for your ID.' And so I'm looking for his ID and it's moments later the police see him and get him in cuffs," Rider said.

Seconds later, cops swarmed the home on Elizabeth Street and arrested Brooks on the front porch.

Police said Brooks had already ditched the red Ford Escape SUV he was allegedly driving when he mowed down several people during the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

Six people were killed and dozens more were injured, including children.

Some of those kids are friends with the Sodemann siblings, who were in the parade and witnessed the crash.

"We saw it all go down and we had to get out right away," said Tyler Sodemann.

They came down Tuesday to tie blue ribbons on a growing memorial at Veterans Park.

"I have friends who were standing right in front of it and they're very traumatized and they don't think they'll ever be OK," said Sara Sodermann.

They join a resounding pain that residents of this community say will take some time to heal.

"Everywhere we go, you can just tell. Everyone's worried. They're upset," added Waukesha resident, Millie Witt.

"We're going to get through this together; we're going to get through this as a community. We're going to get through this by showing each other that we care and that we're here for them," added Nathan Witt.

Brooks' Past Criminal History

One pending case against Brooks included an allegation that he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November after a fight. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County on Monday called their bail recommendation "inappropriately low" given the facts of that case and the Sunday crash, and said they would review it.

Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former assistant prosecutor, said the bail could easily have been set more than twice as high.

"He was accused of running over the mother of his kid, and to put it at $1,000 strikes me as low," Kim said. "It could have been an inexperienced attorney who happened to be reviewing cases that day."

READ MORE | Who is Darrell Brooks?

The chief said there was no police pursuit when Brooks drove through the barricades erected for the parade.

WATCH | Waukesha police announce charges in deadly parade crash

Waukesha police announce a suspect has been charged after an SUV drove into a holiday parade, killing five people.

"We are confident he acted alone," Thompson said, adding that there is no evidence the incident was a terrorist attack.

Brooks has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the Nov. 2 incident.

He is also a convicted sex offender in Nevada, from a 2006 case in which a 15 year old became pregnant. Brooks was required to register as a convicted sex offender and keep his records current. Authorities said he didn't comply and that a warrant for his arrest was issued when he became "non-compliant."

As a result of that conviction, Brooks was arrested a decade later when he failed to obey sex offender laws. He bailed out on this charge but never returned to court, according to police in Sparks, NV.

There was a warrant out for the arrest of Brooks in Nevada issued August 15, 2016 for that failure to appear.

In some cases, an outstanding warrant would prevent a defendant from being allowed to post bail in another jurisdiction, as Brooks did more than once in Wisconsin.

RELATED: Waukesha suspect Darrell Brooks Jr. a wanted sex offender in Nevada released twice by WI authorities

However, the 2016 warrant has a "Nevada Only" extradition limitation set by the district attorney's office in Washoe County. It means that if law enforcement agencies in other states had contact with Brooks Nevada officials would not extradite and those local officials could not act on the warrant.

Legal experts cautioned that one extreme case should not be reason to push for higher bail amounts that would keep poorer defendants behind bars longer while they await trial.

"We don't want to have a kneejerk reaction here and say 'Let's lock up a lot of people pretrial," said John Gross, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and also director of its Public Defender Project.

"I'm sure the district attorney's office is going to look back at this and ask themselves, 'Did we get this wrong?' said Gross, the law school professor. "This is such an extreme incident ... could they reasonably expect he would get behind a vehicle and run people down on a parade route? What would have alerted you to the capacity he would have had for this kind of violence?"

Some Republicans were quick to jump on the case as an example of a broken legal system.

Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, a former Wisconsin lieutenant governor who is running for governor in 2022, called the killings "yet another avoidable tragedy that occurred because a violent career criminal was allowed to walk free and terrorize our community."

And Republican state Rep. Cindi Duchow said she was reintroducing a constitutional amendment that would change the bail process in Wisconsin to allow judges to consider a defendant's danger to the community when setting bail. Judges currently are only allowed to consider the possibility that defendants might not show up for a court appearance when setting bail.

"He tried to run over his girlfriend with his car -- that's attempted murder," Duchow said. "If you're a danger to society, you should have to work hard to get out."

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.

Waukesha Parade Victims ID'd

While Brooks answered for his alleged crimes for the first time, a longtime Waukesha resident still processing it all offered a compassionate take.

"Maybe his anger is behind what happened. Maybe he didn't mean this," said Waukesha resident Dennis Cerreta. "I guess we know it's not an act of terrorism."

However, there is no simple answer.

People in the Wisconsin community are still trying to make sense of the trauma now that a young child is among the dead.

"This is going to be a lifetime of support, especially for many of these children that witnessed horrific things," said Betsy Forest.

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.

"I knew he was evil. There was no braking, and you don't run into people without slamming on your brakes," witness Jaymz Touchstone said.

Five people died and more than 40 more were injured when a man, now charged with murder, intentionally drove into the Waukesha Christmas Parade, police said.

Police in Waukesha 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.

The victims have been identified as:

-Virginia Sorenson, 79,

-LeAnna Owen, 71,

-Tamara Durand, 52,

-Jane Kulich, 52,

-Wilhelm Hospel, 81

-Jackson Sparks, 8

Sparks marks the latest and youngest victim killed from the crash. His older brother was also injured and is recovering in the intensive care unit, WISN reported.

The Sparks family have set up a GoFundMe to help pay for expenses during this difficult time.

"I think when things like this happen it's just important to be together in community," said Susan Lewis, a Waukesha resident.

Huddled in the bitter cold, the attendees clutched candles as they tried to process the pandemonium of the day before.

RELATED: 'Their eyes gleamed': Members of Dancing Grannies group among Waukesha Christmas parade victims

"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 as 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."

Another vigil was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

"We are hurting, we are angry. We are sad, we are confused. We are thankful .... We are all in this together," said Amanda Medina Roddy, with the Waukesha School District.

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 shortly after 4:30 p.m.

"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.

The city fire department transported a total of 11 adults and 12 pediatric patients to six area hospitals, officials said.

Children's Wisconsin hospital said it helped treat 18 children injured in the incident. The ages of those injured range from 3 to 16 years old, including three sets of siblings.

Officials give an update after an SUV sped into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, injuring more than 20.

Thirteeen children remain hospitalized as of Tuesday night, according to Children's Wisconsin. Six are in critical, three in fair and four in good condition, the hospital added. Two families were able to take their children home Monday.

"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

"Instantly, I ran to the street, and I was just holding this one girl who saw her brother get hit, and all she kept saying was, 'My brother my brother!'" witness Mya Tucker said.

One group from the parade, the "Milwaukee Dancing Grannies" posted to Facebook saying they lost some of their own.

"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," the post said.

Three members of the group were killed, as was a man who volunteered for the group.

The fifth person killed was a local bank employee.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was also impacted. One of its priests and multiple parishioners were injured.

SEE MORE: 'I was grabbing my children': Waukesha, Wisconsin parade survivor describes 'screams and chaos'

Matthew Rude was in Waukesha with his daughters when a red SUV plowed into the Christmas parade on Sunday night, killing five people and leaving over 40 injured.

Waukesha police said those experiencing emotional distress from the incident should call or text 800-985-5990.

Brooks could face additional charges as the investigation continues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.