WAUKESHA (Wis.) -- An official with the law enforcement told The Associated Press that investigators are investigating whether the SUV driver who crashed through a Christmas parade near Milwaukee and killed at least five people and injured more than 40 others was trying to flee a crime.
In an instant, the joyous scene of children and marching bands dancing in Santa hats waving pompoms and wearing Santa hats quickly gave way to the sound of screaming and the sight of crumpled bodies. The SUV was speeding through barricades and striking dancers, musicians, and others. A number of members of the "Dancing Grannies Club" were among those who were killed.
Nicole Schneiter said that it looked like dummies were being thrown into the air. She was there with her grandchildren and children. It took a second for it to register. "Is that what we really just saw?" And then you looked at the road and saw only people lying in the road.
Nine patients, most of whom were children, were in critical condition at two hospitals Monday. Seven others were in serious condition.
Authorities said that one person was taken into custody following an attack by a Waukesha officer to stop the vehicle.
Two law enforcement officers spoke on condition of anonymity to identify the victim as Darrell Brooks, 39, because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
He was being questioned by investigators about an earlier crime that he committed Sunday. One official described it as an argument with a knife. Official cautioned that the investigation was still in its early stages.
Online court records revealed that Darrell Brooks Jr., a person with a birthdate of 39, has two open criminal charges in Milwaukee County. He is facing charges of resisting or obstructing a police officer, reckless endangering and disorderly conduct, bail jumping, battery, and other offenses. The case was filed on Nov. 5. According to records, a $1,000 cash bond was posted Friday.
Brooks was also charged in the second case, which was filed in July 2020.
Reporters were sent copies of both criminal complaints by the Milwaukee County District's Attorney Office. The most recent case involved a woman who claimed Brooks had deliberately run her over in a parking lot at a gas station after a fight. Brooks was taken to hospital for her injuries.
The office of the district attorney did not immediately respond when asked if Brooks was the same person named in the complaints.
The city's livestream captured the horror and contacted onlookers via their cellphones. One video captures the moment that the SUV broke through barricades, and also includes several gunshots.
Chief Dan Thompson of Waukesha Police said that he didn't know if the driver had been hit by the bullets.
"It was almost like a war scene, walking through there," stated Ken Walter who, along with his wife and son, had been riding in the parade on a hot-air balloon basket. "There were these blanket piles and cops stood over them, which you could just tell were bodies."
Walter claimed that he saw a red SUV come into view, and then it struck a member of his parade contingent from the real estate agency. The vehicle then crashed straight into Waukesha South High school's marching band.
The SUV continued on the parade route. He recalled that people were running and screaming behind the SUV, looking for their family and friends, and were unsure if they were still in danger.
Walter stated, "It felt like everything was going in slow motion and I couldn’t hear anything."
Schneiter claimed that after hiding in a shop, she saw bodies on the streets, as well as strollers, chairs and candy. She said, "Just stuff everywhere." It's unbelievable that this really happened. It was like being in a movie. It was crazy.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies stated on their Facebook page, that their members were "doing the things they love, performing in front crowds in parades that put smiles on faces all ages, filling them full of joy and happiness."
"Those who were killed were passionate Grannies. Their eyes sparkled with the joy of being a Grannnie. They were the glue that... held us all together," said the organization.
According to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, among those who were hurt were a Roman Catholic priest, parishioners, and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren.
Dr. Amy Drendel was the medical director of Children's Wisconsin Hospital's emergency department. She said that 18 children, ranging in age from 3-16, were brought to Children's Wisconsin Hospital. She said that they suffered serious head injuries and scrapes as well as broken bones and severe facial injuries. Sixteen were in critical condition.
"This is a unique case and really demonstrates the devastating effect of this on our community," Dr. Michael Meyer, chief of the hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit, said.
The White House President Joe Biden stated that while "we don’t have all of the facts and details yet", but that his administration was closely watching the situation.
Monday classes were canceled by the Waukesha school district. Additional counselors will be available for staff and students. Parade participants included students from district schools in cheer, dance, and band entries.
The Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade which is held every year on the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving. The theme for this year's 59th edition was "comfort & joy."
Waukesha is located in the western suburb of Milwaukee and approximately 55 miles (90 km) north of Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday from charges stemming out of the fatal shootings of two men and the injuries to a third man during unrest in the city in August 2020.