Driver in parade crash may have been fleeing a crime

Monday, November 22, 2021
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Toppled chairs line W. Main St. in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV drove into a parade of Christmas marchers Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. AP PHOTO

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Investigators are looking into whether the SUV driver who plowed through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40, was fleeing a crime, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

The joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms turned deadly in an instant on Sunday, giving way to screams and scenes of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others. Members of a “Dancing Grannies” club were among those killed.

One person was taken into custody after a Waukesha police officer opened fire to try to stop the vehicle, authorities said.

Two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the discuss the matter publicly, identified the person as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks.

Investigators were questioning him about an earlier crime, which one of the officials described as an argument involving a knife. The official cautioned the investigation was still in the early stages.

Online court records showed that a person named Darrell Brooks Jr., with a birthdate making him 39, has two open criminal cases in Milwaukee County. In one case, filed Nov. 5, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery. Records show $1,000 cash bond was posted on Friday.

In the other case, filed in July 2020, Brooks is charged with reckless endangering and illegal possession of a firearm.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson gave no immediate details about the person in custody or any possible motive. Thompson said that he did not know if the driver was hit by the officer’s bullets but that no bystanders were wounded.

On its social media account, the city put the number of dead at at least five.

The horror was recorded by the city’s livestream and onlookers’ cellphones. One video shows the moment the SUV broke through the barricades and includes the sound of what apparently were several gunshots.

Another video shows a young child dancing in the street as the SUV speeds by, just a few feet from her, before it hurtles into parade participants a few hundred feet ahead. One video, of dancers with pompoms, ends with a group of people tending to a girl on the ground.

“There were pompoms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,” Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that some of its members were among the dead. The organization describes itself as a “group of grannies that meet once a week to practice routines for summer and winter parades.”

“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,” the post said.

“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed ... joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue ... held us together.”

A Roman Catholic priest, parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren were among those injured, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said.

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