The driver of an SUV that plowed into a crowd of people at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40, was in a domestic disturbance just minutes before the deadly crash, authorities said Monday.
The suspect, identified as Darrell Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee is being charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
An 81-year-old man, a 79-year-old woman and a 71-year-old woman were among the five killed, police said at a news conference. The other victims were two 52-year-old women. Members of the “Dancing Grannies” club were among those killed, as was an employee of Citizens Bank.
Another 48 were hurt when the suspect "intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people," police said. At least nine patients — most of them children — were listed in critical condition Monday at two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.
Police Chief Dan Thompson said officers were not pursuing the suspect when he entered the parade route, however, an officer did fire a shot to try to stop him but ceased firing because of the danger to others.
Thompson said there is no evidence the crash on Sunday was a terrorist attack.
Law enforcement sources earlier told NBC News Brooks was involved in a domestic stabbing incident before the crash. It was not clear who the victim was and the exact circumstances surrounding the incident were not yet clear.
More Waukesha Parade Attack Coverage
NBC 5 Investigates uncovered Brooks' lengthy criminal history in Wisconsin, with court records indicating he bonded out of jail recently after a Nov. 5 arrest for resisting a police officer, bail jumping, 2nd degree recklessly endangering public safety, domestic abuse and battery.
The Milwaukee District Attorney's office said Monday it had requested a cash bail of $1,000 in that case, which was granted by the court and posted by Brooks on Nov. 11, a decision the office now says is under review.
"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 office said in a statement. "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."
One a year ago, the suspect faced charges of recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm while convicted of a felony. He was due to appear in court on that charge on Dec. 20.
Court records show he has spent hundreds of days in jail, mostly on drug and assorted minor charges, and his arrests date back to the '90s. But in February of 2010, he pleaded guilty to charges in Wood County of strangulation and suffocation of an unnamed victim.
In one of his oldest cases, in 1999, when he was just 17 years old, he was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to felony substantial battery with intended bodily harm.
He was once jailed for being in arrears on child support. During the pendency of that case, he said he had failed to pay because he was serving a six-year sentence out of state. The Wisconsin court records do not list that case.
Attorney General Josh Kaul tweeted late Sunday that the investigation was ongoing, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
The joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms gave way in an instant Sunday to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others
The incident happened at approximately 4:39 p.m. CT, when the vehicle went through a barricade at Gasper Avenue and Main Street and then proceeded to drive into the crowd, Thompson said.
The parade was live-streamed on Facebook, and a portion of the video showed a red SUV driving through the parade at what appeared to be a high rate of speed followed by gasps and sirens.
One video shows the SUV striking what appears to be members of a marching band and several others along the parade route before driving on. The sound of the marching band heard before the SUV approaches is replaced by screams.
Police said at one point an officer discharged a gun, firing shots at the suspect's vehicle in an attempt to stop it. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire, and Thompson said he did not know if the driver was struck by the officer’s bullets. They do not believe any shots were fired from inside the car.
Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee said Monday that it received at least 18 patients from the incident in its pediatric intensive care unit, six of whom are in critical condition. Among those wounded were three sets of siblings, hospital officials said.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group that describes themselves as "an award-winning-group of grannies that perform in about 25 parades each year from Memorial Day to Christmas," posted on Facebook early Monday that some of its members were among the victims.
"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 group wrote. "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," the post continued. "Their eyes gleamed.....joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue....held us together."
Waukesha officials advised anyone who may need to talk with someone about the experience of the scene to call 211.
An FBI spokesperson said its Milwaukee field office was aware of the incident and that local and state authorities were leading the response. The White House is also monitoring the situation, according to a statement.
The parade is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s edition was the 59th of the event that’s held each year the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday of charges stemming from the shooting of three men during unrest in that city in August 2020.