Suspect in parade carnage was on bail from another case

He faces five counts of homicide in attack on Sunday; police say motive still a mystery

WAUKESHA (Wisconsin) • A man accused of deliberately driving his car into a Christmas parade in the US, killing five people and injuring dozens, was out on bail from a domestic abuse case and was suspected in another violent altercation that day, officials said.

The suspect, Darrell Brooks, 39, was arrested near the scene of Sunday's vehicular attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and faces five counts of first-degree homicide, Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said.

In addition to the five people killed - aged 52 to 81 - 48 were injured, including six children who remained hospitalised in critical condition on Monday, the authorities said. Among the victims were members of a parade group called the "Dancing Grannies".

Mr Thompson said the motive for the attack was still a mystery but it was clear the suspect had acted intentionally.

"He drove right through the barricades and the officers," he said, adding that the authorities had ruled out terrorism as a motive.

Police were not pursuing Brooks when he ploughed into the parade, but one officer fired shots to try to stop the sport utility vehicle, the police chief said.

"Minutes after the incident occurred, I responded to the scene," Mr Thompson said. "And what I saw out of chaos and tragedy was heroes, first responders in the community coming together and working together on triaging victims."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was assisting local police in their investigation.

Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper said the suspect acted alone.

Brooks has a criminal history and was released on bail after posting a cash bond of US$1,000 (S$1,350) on Nov 11, an amount the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said was "inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges" against him.

The suspect had been charged on Nov 5 with obstructing an officer, battery, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping in a domestic abuse case, court records show.

Around the time of Sunday's carnage, police received a complaint of a domestic disturbance involving Brooks and a knife but were unable to respond because they were preoccupied with the parade, Mr Thompson said.

"Was there an initial complaint of a knife being involved? Yes," he said. "Do we know if there actually was one there? We don't."

He said investigators had no information suggesting Brooks, a resident of Milwaukee, knew anyone in the parade.

Police identified the five dead as Ms Virginia Sorenson, 79; Ms LeAnna Owen, 71; Ms Tamara Durand, 52; Ms Jane Kulich, 52; and Mr Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

Several vigils and prayer services were held on Monday for the victims, including a memorial service attended by hundreds in a park near the scene.

"Waukesha is strong. That's why we are out here," said Mr Jeremy Wittig, 39, an information technology professional, as he stood in the crowd around sunset.

Mr Brian Hoffman, 33, a Waukesha resident, who was present when the vehicle rammed through parade attendees, described the moment as "terrifying".

"I saw children who were run over," he recounted early on Monday. "I am still totally shocked."

Videos of the incident posted on social media showed a red SUV racing alongside the parade route and then into the procession, appearing to run over more than a dozen people before bystanders ran from sidewalks to help.

Officials at Children's Wisconsin hospital in Milwaukee told a briefing they treated 18 children, including six who remained in critical condition and three in serious condition on Monday. The rest were in fair condition or released. The hospital did not mention any fatalities.

A message posted on Monday by the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies Facebook page paid tribute to those who lost their lives as "the glue... (that) held us together".

"Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed... (with the) joy of being a Grannie," read the message. "Our hearts are heavy at this time."

Waukesha schools were closed on Monday, and additional counsellors were made available for students, the school district superintendent said. A fund for the affected families has been set up.

President Joe Biden said his administration was monitoring the situation. "The entire community is struggling, struggling to cope with these horrific acts of violence," he said on Monday.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline Suspect in parade carnage was on bail from another case. Subscribe