'You are a monster': Waukesha parade attack sentencing resumes after mass shooting threat

Some 40 victim impact statements were shared in court on Tuesday during sentencing for Darrell Brooks.

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Ravi Baichwal, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
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WAUKESHA, Wis. (WLS) -- Emotional testimony from victims of the Waukesha Christmas parade attack resumed after a mass shooting threat halted the sentencing hearing for about an hour Tuesday.

The hearing began Tuesday morning with victims reading impact statements and then around 10 a.m. the courtroom was evacuated.

Someone threatened a mass shooting at the courthouse in a phone call to the Waukesha County Communications Center at about at 9:40 a.m., said Waukesha County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Nicholas Wenzel. The office increased security at the courthouse and on the county grounds. The sheriff's office, FBI and the Waukesha Police Department are investigating the threat.

Judge Jennifer Dorow addressed the disruption saying an anonymous threat was made to the courthouse. She said police are trying to track down who made it, but law enforcement assured people that the courthouse is safe and court.

The hearing resumed at about 11:15 a.m. In the afternoon, there more interruptions from Brooks, similar to his behavior at trial, and more denunciations from those whose lives he destroyed.

Last month, a jury convicted Darrell Brooks of killing six people and injuring more than 60 others at a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin nearly one year ago. Prosecutors expect 45 survivors to make impact statements over the next two days.

Darrell Brooks found guilty of homicide, more in Waukesha parade attack

On the day of the attack, Sherry Sparks searched frantically for her sons, Tucker and Jackson, in the moments after Brooks sped through the crowd, mowing down people as if they were speed bumps. Jackson didn't make it, and Tucker was badly injured.

"Do you have any idea of gut wrenching it is to have to explain your 12-year-old son but his little brother isn't going to make it his injuries are too extensive for his little body to come back from and that he won't be coming home with us over again," Sparks said. "This morning, I should have spent the morning making breakfast, taking him to school, hearing about his day later and said I'm standing here in this courtroom asking for justice for my boys. We came so close to losing both of them that day. I miss Jackson every second of every single day. I feel gutted and broken it hurts to breathe sometimes. It hurts to live without him here."

Brooks faces a mandatory life in prison sentence for the most serious charges.

"Nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, guilt, shame... These are all things I and others deal with daily because Darrell Brooks drove through our joy and turned it to terror," said Jenny Gonzalez, who survived the attack.

During the court proceedings, he flipped through a book and didn't react to anyone who spoke.

SEE ALSO | Waukesha parade suspect removed from courtroom several times after repeatedly arguing with judge

"I don't believe that when the prison door closes on this villain, Mr. Brooks will think about me or any of his victims. The feeling is mutual," said Bill Mitchell, a parade marcher who was struck during the attack.

At one point, Brooks even rolled his eyes.

"Mr. Brooks, I hope that as I read my statement, you continue to roll your eyes. I hope you continue to laugh and just show how bored and unmoved you are by all of this, because I think that's important. It is important for the world to see that evil can be a tangible living breathing thing.

I think it is important for the world to see what human rot looks like," said Chris Owen, the son of a victim.

A child also spoke at the hearing.

"On the way to the hospital, we had to lay our head down on the floor because we heard there was a shooter," the child said. "My fingers, my whole body was paralyzed in fear and when we made it to the hospital, I was terrified because I thought I broke my fingers. And when they asked me what happened, I was too busy crying I couldn't speak."

In total, some 40 victim impact statements were shared in court on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Dorow will sentence Brooks to at least six life sentences. There is no death penalty in Wisconsin.

"You are a monster. You deserve contempt and death," one speaker said. "Sadly, with no death penalty in the state, I can only hope they lock you away someplace so deep the rats chew on your fingers at night. As for me this will never be over until the day I am pissing* (bleep out) on your grave. I think it would be fair to say that for your crimes even God hates you."

"I, too, regret Wisconsin does not have the death penalty because if someone ever deserved it the convicted most certainly does. Life in prison is too kind; that Bible on your table will not do you any good for where you will end up," said David Sorensen, the husband of Virginia Sorensen, who was killed in the attack.

State law doesn't place any restrictions on what can be said during victim impact statements other than that the remarks must be relevant to the sentence. The law doesn't define relevance; as long as people don't lapse into screaming or profanity, they will be free to say what they want.

Brooks chose to represent himself during his trial despite overwhelming evidence against him. He told the judge this month that nine people will speak on his behalf, including his mother. Brooks had said she would testify at the trial, but he never called her to the stand.

The monthlong trial was punctuated by erratic outbursts from Brooks, who refused to answer to his own name, frequently interrupted Dorow and often refused to stop talking. The judge often had bailiffs move him to another courtroom where he could participate via video but she could mute his microphone.

WATCH: Brooks removed from court again

After he was removed from the main courtroom during jury selection, he removed his shirt, sat on the defense table bare-chested and stuck down his pants a sign he'd been given to signal objections. Later in the trial, he built a small fort out of his boxes of legal documents and hid behind it so the camera couldn't pick up his face. At other times, he hid his face behind a Bible.

Dorow said in a memo to Brooks and prosecutors this month that she has received emails, letters, cards and gifts, including candy and other food, in connection with the case.

Any perception of judicial bias against Brooks could provide him with grounds for an appeal.

Dorow wrote that the gifts will not influence her sentencing decision, saying that she has taken "every step possible" to not read the correspondence and that she has distributed the candy among the clerk of court's staff.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that much of the correspondence came from livestream viewers who praised the judge's handling of a difficult case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report