Suspect charged in Waukesha Christmas parade killings as death toll rises to 6

·Senior Writer
·3-min read

The man accused of plowing his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide Tuesday as prosecutors announced that the death toll has risen to six.

Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, of Milwaukee, was led into court in handcuffs, wearing a mask and what appeared to be a green bulletproof vest.

Brooks had his head down and wept several times during the proceedings as the judge read aloud the five charges, each of which carries a mandatory life prison sentence.

Darrell Brooks appears in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha, Wisc., Tuesday. (Mark Hoffman/Pool via Reuters)
Darrell Brooks appears in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha, Wisc., Tuesday. (Mark Hoffman/Pool via Reuters)

Police said Brooks was fleeing the scene of a domestic disturbance late Sunday afternoon when he crashed into the parade-goers. Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81, were killed.

Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper informed the court that a sixth victim, a child, had also died, and prosecutors expect to charge Brooks with a sixth count of first-degree intentional homicide.

Bail was set at $5 million.

“The nature of this offense is shocking,” Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said after setting bail.

Darrell Brooks Jr. poses for a booking photograph in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Darrell Brooks Jr.’s booking photograph. (Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office/handout via Reuters)

At a press conference Monday, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said officers were not pursuing Brooks as he entered the parade route, but one officer opened fire to try to stop the vehicle as it drove through a barricade. Brooks was taken into custody a short time later.

Videos posted to social media as well as a livestream on the city’s website captured the moment the SUV sped through the parade on Main Street, which featured marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats. Sorenson, Owen and Durand were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, and Hospel was helping the dance troupe during its parade performance.

According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, police believe Brooks engaged in "an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible" at the parade in Sunday's ramming.

In addition to the six deceased, there were 61 injured victims, including children and adults, according to the complaint.

Two children leave items at a makeshift memorial for victims of the deadly holiday parade incident in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Children leave items at a makeshift memorial for victims of the deadly holiday parade incident in Waukesha, Wis., Monday. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

Authorities are confident that Brooks acted alone and that there is no evidence of a connection to terrorism.

Brooks has a long criminal record that includes multiple convictions for violent crimes in multiple states as well as various stints in jail.

Court records indicate that Brooks has two open criminal cases against him in Milwaukee County, including one pending case in which he allegedly struck the mother of his child with his car in early November after a fight. According to prosecutors, Brooks was free on $1,000 bail that had been posted just two days before Sunday’s parade massacre.

The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting that case, said Monday it was launching an internal review of a prosecutor’s “inappropriately low” bail recommendation.

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