Child is 6th death in Waukesha parade crash; suspect charged

What we know and don’t know about the Wisconsin parade attack

World News


An 8-year-old boy became the sixth person to die in the Christmas parade tragedy in Waukesha, his family announced Tuesday.

Five adults were killed and more than 60 other people were injured after the driver of an SUV plowed through musicians, dancers and onlookers during the holiday ritual on Sunday in the Milwaukee suburb.

The suspect in the attack, Darrell E. Brooks, 39, appeared in court Tuesday as prosecutors formally charged him with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, sobbing as prosecutors recounted what had happened at the parade. Prosecutors said they expected to file a sixth homicide charge.

A court commissioner set Brooks’ bail at $5 million.

Here’s what is known, and what is still unclear, about the tragedy in Waukesha.

The suspect appeared in court.

The Waukesha police believe that Brooks drove a maroon Ford Escape through the parade. Police Chief Daniel Thompson said Brooks, who has a lengthy arrest record, was arrested near the parade route and is believed to have acted alone.

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged Brooks with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and in charging documents described a terrifying rampage in which a vehicle traveling at an estimated 25 mph barreled through the crowded route.

A Waukesha police detective said he initially stepped in front of the Ford Escape and pounded on its hood, shouting “Stop!” several times, but the vehicle, at that time moving at a relatively slow speed, kept moving.

Seconds later, the officer said, he heard on his radio that the vehicle had picked up speed as it proceeded onto East Main Street and struck several pedestrians. Other officers attempted to intervene, with one officer firing three shots into the vehicle, but it continued without stopping.

“As I continued to watch the SUV, it continued to drive in a zigzag motion,” one witness told the police, according to the charging documents. “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 told a detective that the driver appeared to have “a direct intent to hit as many parade participants” as possible.

Those killed ranged in age from 8 to 81.

Jackson Sparks, 8, became the youngest victim of the parade attack when he died Tuesday, his family said on a crowdfunding site.

Jackson and his 12-year-old brother, Tucker, were two of 18 children admitted to Wisconsin Children’s Hospital on Sunday. Jackson had brain surgery that evening. Tucker, who suffered road rash and a fractured skull, will be discharged from the hospital.

A red SUV speeds past attendees moments before plowing into a crowd at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. (Reuters)

A cousin of the siblings, Alyssa Albro, wrote that the family would continue “to heal and mourn the tremendous loss of their sweet little boy who is now under the care of Jesus.”

The five adults who died in the attack were over age 50, including three members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group of women whose pompom routines have long been a staple of local holiday parades.

The victims included Virginia Sorenson, 79, the group’s choreographer; Leanna Owen, 71, a dancer; and Tamara Durand, 52, a new member performing for the first time. Also killed were a dancer’s husband, Wilhelm Hospel, 81, and Jane Kulich, 52, a Citizens Bank teller.

The motive for the attack is unclear.

Thompson said Brooks intentionally struck people with his car after fleeing a domestic dispute possibly involving a knife. Police officers were responding, though not pursuing Brooks, when he veered into the parade route, officials said.

Thompson said there was no indication that Brooks knew anyone marching in the parade, nor was there any sign that the incident was an act of terrorism.

The suspect had recently been released from jail.

Brooks had been arrested repeatedly in Wisconsin since the 1990s, accused at different points of battery and domestic abuse and resisting the police. This month, prosecutors in Milwaukee said, he intentionally ran over a woman he knew with a maroon Ford Escape. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County said they had erred in recommending a $1,000 cash bail in that case.

The attack marred a beloved holiday tradition.

Mayor Shawn Reilly described the march down Main Street as “a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas parade” that has been a cherished event in Waukesha for decades, with high school bands and dance troupes and local politicians all walking through town. Residents were especially excited for this year’s iteration after the parade was called off in 2020 because of COVID-19. More than 60 entries, from the Fire Department to the Waukesha Old Car Club to Santa Claus, had signed up for the parade.

“That parade became a nightmare,” Reilly said Monday. “Lives were lost during the middle of what should have been a celebration.”

It is unknown why Brooks was in Waukesha.

Thompson said Brooks had been involved in a domestic dispute shortly before he drove through the parade. But the police did not respond to questions about exactly where that dispute took place, or why they believe that Brooks had come to Waukesha in the first place.

In court records, Brooks usually listed addresses in Milwaukee, about 20 miles east of Waukesha.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.



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