Darrell Brooks Jr. is the registered sex offender with two open cases and an extensive criminal history who is now charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the Waukesha Christmas parade rampage Wisconsin that left 60 people injured.
The 39-year-old Brooks, a felon many times over, was identified by Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson at a press conference on November 22, 2021, as the suspect in the tragedy. Thompson said Brooks was driving the red SUV that plowed into the parade participants, a scene captured in graphic videos; he had been involved in a “domestic disturbance” not long before he is accused of driving into the holiday parade route and left that scene before police arrived. He was not being chased by officers before entering the parade route, Thompson said.
Read the criminal complaint against Brooks here. It describes how two detectives tried to stop him to no avail.
They said he was driving 25 miles an hour and “had no emotion on his face” as he accelerated. He could have made a right turn out of the parade route but instead began to “rapidly accelerate” into the crowd of parade participants, the complaint says. The officer believed “this was an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible…He observed the vehicle appeared to be intentionally moving side to side, striking multiple people, and bodies and objects were flying from the area of the vehicle.”
A witness told police the SUV drove in a “zig zag motion. It was like the SUV was trying to avoid vehicles, not people. There was no attempt made by the vehicle to stop, much less slow down. Another witness aid he felt it was a “direct intent to hit as many parade participants.”
In court during Brooks’ first appearance on November 23, 2021, the district attorney of Waukesha County, Sue Opper, revealed that Brooks also had a family violence arrest in Georgia while he was out on $500 bail in the first Milwaukee County case, which accused him of shooting toward a family member’s car after an argument. In addition, he had an active warrant from Nevada for non-compliance as a registered sex offender for the past five years. Despite those things, when he was accused of trying to run a woman over at a gas station a few days before the parade tragedy, he was released on $1,000 bail.
On November 23, 2021, in a Waukesha County court hearing in which Brooks sobbed and hyperventilated as some victims’ families watched silently, a court commissioner set his bail at $5 million. There was heavy security at the courthouse.
“I have been doing this for almost 40 years, and the nature of this offense is shocking,” Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said, setting the bail. He said that two detectives who tried to stop Brooks’ car believe he was intentionally trying to hit people; he was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicides, and a sixth charge is now expected.
Thompson said Brooks was alone in the SUV and the incident is not believed to have been an act of terrorism. Thompson identified the victims as Virginia Sorenson, 79; Leanna Owens, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 82. Read tributes and find GoFundMe pages for the victims and survivors here.
A 6th victim has now died; he is Jackson Sparks, 8. Jackson’s brother, Tucker, was also seriously injured. The family revealed Jackson had died in a post on their GoFundMe page. He is the smaller child in this picture:
NBC News obtained a doorbell camera that showed Brooks “before his arrest pleading for help and telling a resident he was waiting for an Uber.” The man didn’t know he was the parade suspect, and so he made him a sandwich when Brooks told him he was homeless.
Brooks’ social media accounts show that he is an aspiring rap singer with a lengthy criminal history; he supported Black Lives Matter and posted anti-police rhetoric on his social media accounts.
When Brooks was detained, police found a Ford key on him, according to scanner audio obtained by Heavy.
Heavy confirmed that two Milwaukee police squads were outside the home listed to Brooks on N. 19th St. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the night of the parade tragedy. Heavy also obtained audio from the scanner indicating Waukesha police obtained an ID in the name Darrell Brooks Jr. inside the red Ford Escape they recovered in connection with the Waukesha parade investigation. Brooks had prolific social media accounts, but some have already been deleted.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Red SUV Is Seen in a Rap Music Video Recorded by Brooks & He Posted About the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict on Facebook
Brooks raps under the name MathBoi Fly. He had a YouTube channel with rap music videos, but it’s been deleted. A red SUV could be seen behind him in one of the videos.
Heavy saved this music video before his account was deleted:
On another MathBoi Fly Facebook page belonging to Brooks, in the name Jay Brooks, he wrote about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. That trial occurred about an hour away from Milwaukee and Waukesha.
Waukesha police have not shared a motive for the Waukesha parade tragedy.
When a friend wrote on the post, “Doesn’t surprise me, what a joke,” Brooks responded, “frfr…but u rite,I wasn’t surprised 1 bit 🤷🏽♂️.” The page is filled with religious sayings.
David Begnaud of CBS News tweeted that, according to a law enforcement official, the parade suspect was “fleeing another scene – possibly a knife fight” before injuring 60 people in the parade. “Several LE sources say preliminary: Wisconsin incident appears to be vehicle fleeing a separate crime scene (stabbing) when it plowed into parade. One person in custody. Investigation ongoing but so far no initial link to terror or the recent Rittenhouse verdict w/@tom_winter,” NBC reporter Jonathan Dienst wrote on Twitter.
There was an incident relating to knives on the police scanner right before the parade incident. Two citizens told an officer there was a possible fight near the boat launch at nearby Frame Park with possible knives involved, and the scanner audio includes the sound of a few officers responding with sirens. Then an officer gets there and says there’s no one there after he checks the boat launch and the nearby baseball field and rotary building. Just a minute later another officer first spots the SUV speeding toward the parade route. It’s not clear, though, whether the incident reported at the boat launch is related to what happened at the parade.
Thompson said in the November 22 press conference that Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before driving through the parade but police hadn’t confirmed whether a knife was involved.
Prior to police naming Brooks as the suspect, Heavy confirmed a red Ford Escape similar to the vehicle police said was used in the parade incident could be seen outside of a Milwaukee home listed as Brooks’ address in court records.
The Escape is registered to an occupant of the home, records obtained by Heavy show. Heavy also confirmed two police vehicles were outside of that home on 19th Street hours after the parade incident. Opper said in court that Brooks is accused of using the same red vehicle to mow down the woman in the gas station parking lot.
2. Brooks Is Accused of Trying to Run a Woman Over in an Open Felony Cases in Wisconsin & Is a Convicted Sex Offender in Nevada
Brooks has a long criminal history in three states including open cases. Opper said his lengthy criminal history in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Nevada at his first court appearance, advocating for $5 million bail.
“There are not words to describe the risks this defendant presents to our community,” Opper said. Even after police officers risked their lives to try to stop Brooks, “he continued down the road causing death and destruction in his path,” the DA said.
He has open charges filed November 5, 2021, in Milwaukee courts of resisting an officer (misdemeanor), felony bail jumping, second degree recklessly endangering safety (felony) with domestic abuse assessments, disorderly conduct and battery (both misdemeanors, also with domestic abuse assessments).
He posted $1,000 cash bail on November 19, 2021, according to court records.
He was given $1,000 bail despite already having another pending felony case in Milwaukee County that was still winding through the court system and even though, in May 2021, he was accused of misdemeanor battery – family violence in Georgia, according to Opper. Opper said she was unable to learn whether he was convicted of that Georgia offense, but she said that Brooks told a jail official that he spent six years in jail there.
She also revealed that he was wanted on a warrant for being a non-compliant sex offender in Nevada since 2016, and she said the warrant was still active at the time of the Waukesha parade tragedy. He also had a domestic violence battery and resisting case in Nevada, she said. KOLO-TV reported that he impregnated a 15-year-old girl in Nevada and the warrant was for not appearing in court.
In a still-pending Milwaukee County case filed in July 2020, Brooks is accused of getting in a fight in a backyard and then taking out a gun and firing a shot at two people who were about to drive away. The victim had to accelerate to get away and avoid being shot, according to the criminal complaint. Opper said the gun was stolen.
Brooks was charged in that case with two counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon — all felony charges — according to the complaint.
In the second case, on November 2, 2021, he is accused of striking a woman “in the face with a closed fist,” according to the complaint. He then “intentionally … ran EAP over with his vehicle while EAP was walking through the parking lot of the BP gas station,” the complaint says.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm released this statement:
Below is the summary of pending charges against Mr. Darrell Brooks: On July 27, 2020, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office issued two counts of Second Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety and Felon In Possession of a Firearm in case 2020CF002550. Cash bail was originally set at $10,000 and subsequently reduced to $7,500. Unlike some other states, Wisconsin requires payment for the full amount of bail set in any criminal case.
On February 9, 2021, the State was prepared to proceed to a scheduled jury trial. Mr. Brooks was still in custody on this matter and previously made a demand for a speedy jury trial. Because another jury trial was in progress before the same court, the defendant’s demand for a speedy jury trial could not be met. The case was adjourned and bail reduced to $500, which the defendant posted on February 21, 2021.
On November 5, 2021, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office issued against Mr. Brooks charges of Second Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety, Felony Bail Jumping, Battery, Obstructing an Officer and Disorderly Conduct in case 2021CF004596. The most recent case against Mr. Brooks was appropriately charged. The State made a cash bail request in this case of $1,000, which was set by the court. The defendant posted $1,000 cash bail on November 11, resulting in his release from custody.
The State’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks. The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail.
This office is currently conducting an internal review of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation in this matter in order to determine the appropriate next steps.
In the July case, hearings were repeatedly adjourned. Brooks requested a speedy trial, but the court tolled the time limits, part of a trend that has occurred recently because of a two-year backlog, the chief judge has said, which she has attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. The backlog also persists with jury trials, she said.
In February 2021, with Judge David Feiss presiding, the court lowered Brooks’ bail to $500, noting, “Due to reasons stated on the record, the court is unable to honor the speedy trial demand in this case. Defense bail motion argued and GRANTED by the Court. The Court lowered cash bail to $500.00.”
In June 2021, the court notes say, “Matter scheduled for Jury Trial. Parties are ready to proceed. Due to court congestion, Court is unable to hear jury trial at this time.”
The case continued, with some plea negotiations. “JusticePoint PreTrial Services Supervision/VIOLATION Report dated November 10, 2021; received and filed,” says a recent entry. There was a “further proceedings” on November 11, the last date.
Brooks’ prior convictions include:
- Bail jumping (misdemeanor) and marijuana possession (misdemeanor).
- Marijuana possession second plus offense (felony), 2011.
- Obstruct an officer (misdemeanor), 2005 and 2003.
- Marijuana possession (felony), 2002.
- Substantial battery (felony), 1999.
He has a lengthy Wisconsin arrest history. Read it here.
Opper revealed in court that Brooks is a convicted sex offender in Nevada. According to the state’s sex offender registry, Brooks was convicted of statutory sexual seduction in the Second Judicial District Court on November 1, 2006. According to KLAS, Brooks was on probation but it was revoked in 2007 and he served 14 months in jail between July 2007 and September 2008.
Opper said he also had a paternity case that has been pending for years in Waukesha County.
3. Brooks Calls Himself a Rapper & ‘Stoner’; He Posted Anti-Police Rhetoric on Social Media
On one of his Twitter pages, Brooks wrote, “Milwaukee,WI born & raised,rapper/songwriter/producer/stoner/philosopher next big thing out the Midwest if u aint know,get in tune.”
He wrote about the Derek Chauvin case on one of his pages.
In 2019, he wrote, “in kase yall dnt know how f***** up my xity is… I got ties ta Detroit my dad whole family frm the D,nd Iwas born nd grew up in Milwaukee,who aint frm the trenches???”
One Twitter user shared a round-up of some of Brooks’ now-deleted Facebook posts, especially on BLM.
Brooks also has a Twitter page that contains tributes to people like Kobe Bryant and Juice WRLD.
He sometimes got political.
He also posted a photoshopped fake image of former Republican Governor Scott Walker as a Nazi.
Brooks also posted anti-police rhetoric.
One post referred to Black Lives Matter and showed BLM carved into fruit.
“Americans don’t be fooled by this good talking a** president,” he said of former President Barack Obama, calling him the N-word who says “bull****.”
On SoundCloud, he wrote, “Born nd raised in Milwaukee, WI in the dangerous west side neighborhood of Washington Park, Fly turn to the streets at a very young age..after multiple legal battles, Fly started turning the life he lived in the streets into music, with his 1st mixtape released in the summer of 2014..now considered the best underground artist in his city, keep looking out for more big moves by the best Milwaukee artist of this era..”
Kanye West was a target.
He posted black nationalist rhetoric, quoting Malcolm X.
He wrote about the 2012 mass shooting at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, in Waukesha County.
This post was circulating on Twitter, but, unlike the others, Heavy was unable to verify it on Brooks’ actual social media accounts before they were deleted.
On a now-deleted Facebook page with the name “Evangelist Fly,” he called himself an “Underground Hip-Hop/Rap/Drill recording artist/producer/writer/actor from Milwaukee, WI.”
He sometimes used gun emojis in posts.
4. Police Say 60 Injured People, Including 18 Children, Were Taken to Hospitals
A local resident sent Heavy the picture above of the suspect who plowed through the parade but asked not to be named out of fear for her safety. She said she was standing next to the person who took the photo. “It’s the driver,” she said. “He was feet away from me. I’m in shock.”
She also sent Heavy this picture.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies confirmed on Facebook that members of the group died.
“The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are (devastated) by this terrible tradegy with of loss of life and injuries in the Waukesha Christmas parade,” they wrote. “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.”
Local residents told Heavy that their loved ones were barricaded in stores after a vehicle drove through the crowd; many people believed the suspect was shooting from it as gunfire echoed through the parade route, but Thompson now said he doesn’t believe shots were fired from the SUV. “An officer did discharge his weapon at the suspect vehicle to try to stop the suspect vehicle,” he said. No people were injured by the gunfire.
Authorities initially said 11 adults and 12 pediatric patients were transported to six area hospitals. After later reporting 40 injured and five deceased, the injured count had risen to 48 by Monday afternoon, including 18 children.
Horrific videos captured the carnage. The video below has been edited to end just before the vehicle actually strikes people; the original video, shared on Twitter by WTMJ-TV reporter Taylor Lumpkin, has since been removed from the platform.
The Waukesha South High School marching band was among those hit by the vehicle, according to a man who was there. Local residents reported many people lying on the ground, injured or dead.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said, “Tonight was a traumatic situation for the City of Waukesha. We don’t have all the details.” He said in a second press conference, “Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy. I walked in the parade at the beginning. I saw all of the happy children sitting on the curb. … I can still see the smiling faces. A parade is a celebration for our community.”
In the initial press conference about the incident, Thompson said that at 4:39 p.m. on November 21, 2021, a red SUV “drove into our Christmas parade. … More than 20 individuals were injured.” He said the SUV drove through barricades down Main Street. “It struck more than 20 individuals. Some were children, and there were some fatalities as a result of this incident.” The names of victims and the number of those dead were not immediately released, and he said at that time it wasn’t clear whether the incident had any “nexus to terrorism.”
Thompson said the Waukesha police department “recovered a suspect vehicle. It’s an ongoing investigation. The victims were transported from the scene via ambulance. Officers transported some of the injured people and took them to the hospital. It’s a very tragic incident. Very chaotic. There are no other threats involved.”
Waukesha is a suburban city in a conservative, affluent county next to Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
“Several LE sources say preliminary: Wisconsin incident appears to be vehicle fleeing a separate crime scene (stabbing) when it plowed into parade. One person in custody. Investigation ongoing but so far no initial link to terror or the recent Rittenhouse verdict w/@tom_winter,” NBC reporter Jonathan Dienst wrote on Twitter.
The abandoned SUV was later located by police officers in a driveway, according to scanner audio. An officer said on the police radio that a bullet struck the windshield but there was no evidence anyone inside the vehicle was hit. According to the scanner, police found the suspect’s ID in the vehicle and a Ford key on him.
Another witness told Heavy she saw a red SUV driving down the road. It hit a male who went flying into the air in front of her. It continued on, she said, and she heard screaming.
One woman wrote Heavy, “(A relative) lives in Waukesha, a black guy with dreads knocked on her door shortly after the incident at the parade. She wouldn’t let him in and he proceeded to go across the street trying to break into a building. My daughter called 911 with a description and they said they think he was driving the SUV that drove into all the people.” Police have not confirmed the suspect description, but they did describe the suspect as possibly being a “Black male” on the scanner. A more specific description was not given.
There were conflicting reports about the number of suspects.
A man wrote Heavy: “My friend was approached by the people in the car. One was arrested, other two on the run. They asked to use his phone. 3 African Americans, early 20’s, dreadlocks.”
He added: “He’s at the station now. It looked like they ditched the car. He used the phone and they have the fingerprints. He said it looked like they were ditching clothes.”
These are preliminary accounts from eyewitnesses and other local residents, and sometimes preliminary reports can be wrong.
In the archived scanner audio below, a police officer can be heard on the radio at 4:39 p.m. saying, “There’s a car going westbound approaching the parade course. A red Escape. Black male. I couldn’t stop him. He’s going westbound blowing his horn.”
Another police officer said a “maroon Ford Escape just blew by me White Rock and Hartwell heading toward the parade route.” About a minute later, an officer called for help and said, “Sounds like a car sped through westbound Main” and said people had been “ran over” with “multiple casualties,” calling for multiple ambulances to respond.
A frantic officer then got on the radio and said, “We have about 10 to 15 people down in the street. … We need all available units to the downtown.” He then got back onto the radio and yelled, “I’ve got about 30 people down.” The officer then corrected himself, saying there were 40 casualties down Main Street. Another officer said a woman was not conscious and not breathing. “Casualty” refers to both injured and deceased victims.
The second audio file captures the aftermath.
“Alert all the hospitals,” an officer yelled.
Police were still searching for the vehicle and suspect as of 4:47 p.m., according to an officer’s radio transmission. He said they were looking for a red Ford Escape SUV with “heavy front end damage” heading southbound away from the parade. Another officer said he had fired shots at the SUV when it was driving through the parade area. Officers later found the vehicle.
5. A Man Described How the SUV Came a Foot From His Son, Saying, ‘They Have a Whole Block of Main Street That Is Casualties’
The city captured some of the incident while streaming the parade on Facebook Live.
One man, who said his son was almost struck by the truck, told Heavy the scene “looked like a war zone.”
“We just heard screaming up the parade route and looked over, and the red jeep or SUV came barreling through,” Michael Hurst, a woodworker from Waukesha whose son was almost hit by the truck, told Heavy in a phone interview. “I pulled my son away. He probably got missed by about a foot. There was a little kid next to us that got hit. I did see dead bodies. The amount of people who are going to be dead from this, it might even be worse than that Las Vegas shooting. They have a whole block of Main Street that is casualties. We did hear that there were active shooters. We don’t know where that came from or if that’s true. The police pulled me into a building and said to stay in there, get in there, there’s active shooters. One officer told us they did stop the active shooters. My son was out in that street grabbing candy.”
He added: “At that moment I thought just to grab my son and family and get them on the curb. It was 100% intentional.”
Hurst believes the truck drove through the parade for about a mile. “I saw a young boy get hit. He was still alive. He was in a lot of pain. I am pretty sure he was going to have broken legs. I did see another guy who was laying in the street. I guarantee he was dead. There were about 20 ambulances coming and going. It looked like a war zone down there.”
An eyewitness at the parade route, Beth Ginnow-Mandl, told Heavy she saw the suspect’s face as the SUV drove past. “Couple dead right around us,” she said. “We all were screaming and running into a building. Store owner let us in. Went out to get a lay of the land. Incredible first responders doing cpr on at least 10 people around us. Ambulances came quick. We locked down an hour or so. Most harrowing thing we have ever witnessed. Saw driver’s face – focused. Intent.”