Prosecutors in Wisconsin yesterday charged a man with intentional homicide in the deaths of five people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade that also left 62 people injured, including many children.
Prosecutors also say a sixth person, a child, has died and more charges are pending. The child was named as Jackson Sparks (8), whose brother Tucker (12) was also hospitalised after the crash but is expected to be discharged.
Darrell Brooks Jr was charged with five counts of intentional homicide in the crash on Sunday in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Conviction on first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence, Wisconsin’s stiffest penalty.
Mr Brooks made his initial appearance in court on Tuesday. He could be heard crying during the proceedings, leaning over with his head nearly in his lap, and his attorney resting a hand on his back.
The city’s livestream video and bystander video captured the chaotic scene when an SUV sped along the parade route and then into the crowd. Several of those injured remain in critical condition.
According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told police the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side”, with no attempt made to slow down or stop as it struck multiple people and sent bodies and objects flying.
The criminal complaint said a police officer shot at the vehicle, striking it three times, and a detective stepped in front of Mr Brooks’ vehicle and pounded on the hood, shouting, “Stop,” several times – but Mr Brooks drove past him. The complaint said the detective was wearing police insignia and a neon orange safety vest.
Mr Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail for a case in Milwaukee County on November 2 in which he is accused of intentionally striking a woman with his car
after a fight. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County on Monday called their bail recommendation “inappropriately low” given the facts of that case and the Sunday crash, and said they would review it.
Julius Kim, a defence attorney and former assistant prosecutor, said the bail could easily have been set more than twice as high.
“He was accused of running over the mother of his kid, and to put it at $1,000 strikes me as low,” Mr Kim said.
“It could have been an inexperienced attorney who happened to be reviewing cases that day.”
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Mr Brooks, (39), was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier when he drove into the parade route.
Mr Brooks has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. They included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the November 2 incident.
Police chief Thompson said that there was no evidence the bloodshed on Sunday was a terrorist attack or that Mr Brooks knew anyone in the parade. Mr Brooks acted alone, the chief said.
Hundreds gathered at a downtown park on Monday night in Waukesha for a candlelight vigil in honour of those lost and hurt. .
“We are parents. We are neighbours. We are hurting. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are thankful. We are all in this together. We are Waukesha Strong,” said Amanda Medina Roddy of the Waukesha school district.