Waukesha, Wisconsin, authorities say at least six people are dead and 60 were injured after a red SUV ran through the city’s Christmas parade, plowing into many people, including small children. Graphic videos from the November 21, 2021, incident emerged from the scene. You can watch some later in this article but be forewarned they are disturbing.
Heavy learned an ID was found in the red Ford Escape in the name of Darrell Brooks Jr. The suspect taken into custody also gave his name as Darrell Brooks, according to the scanner. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson confirmed the 39-year-old Brooks is the suspected SUV driver at a press conference on November 22. Thompson said Brooks will be facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide. At least 18 children were wounded.
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.”
According to Thompson, Brooks was acting alone and the incident is not believed to have been an act of terrorism. He said Brooks had been involved in a domestic disturbance moments before driving into the parade route and had fled from that scene before police arrived. He was not being actively chased by police before driving through barricades on a road closed for the parade, Thompson said.
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.
The suspect’s criminal history is becoming a focal point; he had two pending felony cases in Milwaukee County courts, and he was released on $500 and then $1,000 bail, the latter a few days before the incident. The District Attorney John Chisholm released a statement saying the bail recommendation from prosecutors was inappropriate and under investigation. In one of those incidents, Brooks was accused of trying to mow a woman down in a gas station parking lot; in another he is accused of shooting at a car containing people with whom he had just argued. He has an extensive criminal history and is a felon.
In court, the district attorney of Waukesha County, Sue Opper, revealed that Brooks also had a family violence arrest in Georgia while he was on bail in the first Milwaukee County case. In addition, he had an active warrant from Nevada for non-compliance as a registered sex offender in Nevada for the past five years. Despite those things, when he was accused of trying to run the woman over at the gas station, another felony, he was released on $1,000 bail.
On November 23, 2021, in a court hearing in which Brooks sobbed and hyperventilated as some victims’ families watchd silently, a court commissioner set his bail at $5 million.
“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.
The victims have been identified as Virginia Sorenson, 79; Leanna Owens, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 82, Thompson said. Four of the victims were members of the Dancing Grannies group, which is a mainstay at parades.
A 6th victim has now died. He is Jackson Sparks, 8. Jackson’s family announced his death on their GoFundMe page. His brother, Tucker, was also seriously injured. More than 60 people were injured, prosecutors said in court, where the suspect was held on $5 million bail.
“This afternoon, our dear Jackson has sadly succumbed to his injuries and passed away,” the family’s GoFundMe page says. “Tucker, by the grace of God is miraculously recovering from his injuries and will be being discharged home.” Tucker was also in the intensive care unit and was “seriously injured,” the page says.
Read tributes and find GoFundMe pages for the victims and survivors here.
Local residents told Heavy their loved ones were barricaded in stores after a vehicle drove through the crowd; many people said they heard gunshots and believed the suspect was shooting from the vehicle, but the police chief Dan Thompson 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 children were transported to six area hospitals. Their conditions were not publicly revealed. The City of Waukesha later said that five people died and more than 40 were injured in the incident. “However, these numbers may change as we collect additional information. Many people have self-transported to area hospitals,” they wrote.
A local resident sent Heavy a photo of the driver in the red SUV but asked not to be identified 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.”
The same local resident also sent Heavy an image of what appears to be the SUV in the midst of a marching band.
Heavy confirmed that two Milwaukee police squads were outside the home listed to Brooks on N. 19th St. in Milwaukee. Brooks has open felony cases in Milwaukee County. He was released on $1,000 bail in one case just days before the parade, according to court records.
Heavy discovered that a red vehicle similar to the Escape actually shows up on Google Maps for the address listed to Brooks in Wisconsin online court records.
In addition, a red Ford Escape is registered to an older woman who lives at the home, a law enforcement source told Heavy. Brooks gave that address as his home address in a Wisconsin felony case filed only days before the Waukesha parade carnage.
Video from the scene shows the red SUV running people over. The Waukesha South High School marching band was among those hit, according to a man who was there.
Local residents reported many people lying on the ground, injured or dead. A law enforcement source said one of two suspects is in custody; another is being sought. The police chief would say only that police have apprehended a “person of interest.” Listen to scanner audio later in this article.
Waukesha is a suburban city in a conservative, affluent county next to Milwaukee County. Wisconsin has been riven with divisions over the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal in Kenosha, which is about an hour away from Waukesha.
The Waukesha Christmas parade, which goes through the downtown, is a mainstay in that community of about 72,000 people. A witness at the scene said local well-known Black Lives Matter activists, including one man who was prominently protesting the Rittenhouse trial, showed up at the scene of the parade incident to survey the aftermath, as did many others. Police have said nothing yet on motive or suspect name(s).
“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. 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 at least 40 people in the parade.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies confirmed on Facebook that members of the group died.
“The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are (devastated) by this terrible (tragedy) 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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
A Man Described How the SUV Came a Foot From His Son & Said, ‘They Have a Whole Block of Main Street That Is Casualties’
Video of the parade incident was captured live on the city’s Facebook page.
One man, who said his son was almost struck by the SUV, 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.”
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.”
The chief 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 released. He said it’s not clear whether the incident has any “nexus to terrorism.”
Thompson said the Waukesha police department has “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.”
A woman in the below video told police, “There are so many down.”
Brooks Was Accused of Trying to Mow a Woman Down at a BP Gas Station
Brooks’ pending felony cases are gaining scrutiny. He had a 2020 case that got bogged down by “court congestion,” online records say, and kept getting delayed. His bail was then reduced to $500. He was accused of reoffending, but bail was set at $1,000.
In the 2020 case, he 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, the criminal complaint says.
In the second case, on November 2, 2021, he is accused of yelling and using profanity at a woman. Then, as she was walking to the BP gas station, she reported that he pulled over and when she wouldn’t get into the vehicle struck her in the face with a closed face, the complaint alleged.
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.
That’s despite the fact he has another open felony case in Milwaukee County, from 2020.
The 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.
The 2020 case is for second-degree recklessly endangering safety – felony with use of a dangerous weapon (two counts) and possessing firearm convicted of a felony (felony charge.) The case was filed in July 2020, but it remains pending. Milwaukee County courts is dealing with a major backlog in cases.
In the above case, hearings were repeatedly adjourned. He requested a speedy trial, but the court tolled the time limits for that (this has occurred recently because of a two-year backlog, the chief judge has said, which she has attributed to COVID. The backlog also persists with jury trials, she said.)
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.
Brooks was an aspiring rapper who had multiple social media accounts, many now deleted, in which he wrote pro Black Lives Matter posts, criticized police and politicians (both Scott Walker and Barack Obama) and quoted Malcolm X.
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.
A 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.
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.” We are not printing his name, either, for his own protection, but we have it.
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.
Listen to the archived scanner audio below.
According to police scanner audio, a police officer could 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 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. Police later found the vehicle.
Disturbing Videos Captured the Incident
A live video may have captured the vehicle, screams and a law enforcement officer running. Officers were frantic, yelling, even screaming on the scanner.
One graphic video shows bodies lying on the ground as people rush to help. “Oh my God!” a woman screams repeatedly in it. Another video shows people from the crowd tending to victims on the ground.
In one video posted on Instagram a young man yells for his mother and tries to get his family to safety as confusion continues in the street. “There’s shots fired now, guys,” he says in the Instagram video as kids cry in the background. “It’s f****** chaos. That was the worse thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” A man wails, “What is wrong with the world right now?” Be forewarned that the video contains graphic language and is disturbing.
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Kaylee Staral, whose Twitter page describes her as a business reporting intern with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote on Twitter, “UPDATE: A car just ran through the middle of a downtown Waukesha parade. Multiple people on the ground injured.” She wrote that police were shouting that 30 people were injured.
Scanner traffic indicated that authorities had coded victims into different categories — red, yellow, green and black — although it’s not clear what that means at this point.
People Said a ‘Car Broke Through … Plowing Through Pedestrians’ & Shots Were Fired
Heavy spoke to multiple people with loved ones at the scene.
“Just talked to (a friend) – she said she saw bodies flying. They were shoot(ing) out the windows as they drove through, running people over,” a woman whose friend was there told Heavy. Her friend wrote her, “ppl driving through parade hurting people.”
Scanner traffic indicated people were transported to multiple hospitals, including Children’s Hospital. Police were checking businesses for victims. Scanner traffic indicated police were searching for two men.
“At the Waukesha Holiday parade and a car just broke through the police line, plowing through pedestrians and firing rounds out the window. Family and I are safe. Happened 20 feet in front of us,” a man wrote in a now-deleted post on Twitter.
Staral, the reporting intern, wrote on Twitter: “Police shouting at least 30 people down and that shots were fired.”
Staral wrote on Twitter, “Heavy police and ambulance presence now. Tons of families with children running to their cars to leave the scene.”
People Hid at Local Stores
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Heavy asked people in Waukesha to send us information about the parade incident if they had it. We received these comments:
“My brother is locked in…[a] store.. He said a car drove into the crowd firing shots.”
“My daughter is barricaded in a store with her husband and son.”
“My son is there & called me crying, He said a truck ran through the barricade.”
Another woman, who was in the parade, told Heavy she heard “that a car ran through the parade and multiple people down, little girl critically injured. Someone mentioned gunshots because as we were walking back towards my car everyone started running the opposite way and so we started running and stayed in a gas station until my sister … picked us up.”
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