Locals gathered on Sunday in the downtown area of Waukesha, Wisconsin celebrating the 58th annual Christmas parade, but the festivities ended in tragedy when the driver of an SUV plowed into a crowd of people during the parade.
Participants of the holiday event included police officers, firefighters, dance troupes and high school marching bands.
The incident occurred around 4:39 p.m. local time, about an hour after the parade began, when onlookers horrifyingly witnessed a red SUV crash into multiple people.
Here’s everything we know about the Waukesha Christmas parade incident so far.
As the parade was taking place, attendees watched as the vehicle sped down the street. The driver then started to swerve as he plowed into people marching, transforming the jolly song of “Jingle Bells" playing from speakers into bone-chilling screams.
Authorities in Wisconsin have since identified the driver of the red SUV, who announced had "intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people celebrating the Waukesha Christmas parade."
Police chief Dan Thompson said that an officer had shot at the vehicle in an attempt to stop it before it crashed through the barriers.
Waukesha Police say Darrell Brooks "intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people" a… https://t.co/CPMf2FtWJ5
Darrell E. Brooks Jr., 39, is the lone suspect of the fatal parade incident. He is currently in custody and no-one else is being sought.
Brooks had been released on $1,000 bail earlier this month on November 11th in relation to charges of domestic abuse. Milwaukee County District Attorney's office has made a statement released Monday that the bail had been set "inappropriately low."
The incident in question also involved Brooks being accused of using a car to cause an injury, according to a criminal complaint.
What did witnesses see?
Disturbing, graphic videos captured by parade-goers show the participants dancing on the streets, unaware of the oncoming driver as the SUV ran into them.
Another video on social media shows the vehicle plowing through low-level barricades and speeding away from the scene as people attempted to jump out of the way.
A law enforcement officer can be seen in one video running after the driver by foot. That officer opened fire at the SUV in an attempt to immobilize it. Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson later confirmed to reporters that no bystanders were injured by gunfire.
Speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, local resident Angelito Tenorio said that he had just finished taking part in the parade when the SUV “[started] zooming full speed along the parade route” before they “heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle.”
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, added that his daughter’s dance team had been involved in the crash. “There were pompoms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”
Who are the victims?
The incident left five dead and 48 others injured.
The City of Waukesha has since identified the victims as: Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
Children's Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in nearby Milwaukee has also told media that at least 18 children were hospitalized after the parade.
What have people said?
Meanwhile, mayor Shawn Reilly said in a statement: “Today, our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration. I’m deeply saddened to know that so many in our community went to a parade, but ended up dealing with injuries and heartache.”
Senator’s Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, who both represent Wisconsin, as well as the state’s members of the house and the attorney general have all tweeted their condolences for those involved in the incident.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by the devastating incident today in Waukesha. I’m grateful to the law enfor… https://t.co/VnEWH81Xvn
— Attorney General Josh Kaul (@Attorney General Josh Kaul)
My heart is with Waukesha tonight in the aftermath of this horrific tragedy. My thoughts are with victims & their f… https://t.co/Zv6BtVaCoo
President Joe Biden was also briefed on the incident by his aides. A statement from the White House: “The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident. We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed.”