What we know and don’t know about the Wisconsin parade attack

WAUKESHA, Wis.—Five people died, and at least 48 others were injured, after the driver of an SUV plowed through musicians, dancers and onlookers during a Christmas parade Sunday in suburban Milwaukee.

Here’s what is known, and what is still unclear, about the tragedy in Waukesha.

Police say the perpetrator is in custody

Waukesha police believe that Darrell E. Brooks, 39, drove a maroon Ford Escape through the Christmas parade. Police Chief Daniel Thompson said Brooks, who has a lengthy arrest record, was arrested near the parade route and is believed to have acted alone.

The police referred five counts of first-degree intentional homicide to prosecutors.

The motive for the attack is unclear

Thompson said Brooks intentionally struck people with his car after fleeing a domestic dispute involving a knife at a nearby home. Police officers were responding to that home, though not pursuing Brooks, when he veered into the parade route, officials said.

Authorities did not say whether they believed that Brooks was trying to harm people as he drove through the parade or whether his goal was to elude the police. Thompson said there was no indication that Brooks knew anyone marching in the parade, nor was there any sign that the incident was an act of terrorism.

Those struck included children and seniors

The five people who died in the attack were adults older than 50, including three members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group of women whose pompom routines have long been a staple of local holiday parades.

At least 18 children, who had turned out in large numbers to watch the parade and march in it, were among those hospitalized, including 10 in intensive care.

The suspect had recently been released from jail

Brooks had been arrested repeatedly in Wisconsin since the 1990s, accused at different points of battery and domestic abuse and resisting the police. This month, prosecutors in Milwaukee said, he intentionally ran over a woman he knew with a maroon Ford Escape. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County said they had erred in recommending a $1,000 cash bail in that case.

The attack marred a beloved holiday tradition

Mayor Shawn Reilly described the march down Main Street as “a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas parade” that has been a cherished event in Waukesha for decades, with high school bands and dance troupes and local politicians all walking through town. Residents were especially excited for this year’s iteration after the parade was called off in 2020 because of COVID-19. More than 60 entries, from the Fire Department to the Waukesha Old Car Club to Santa Claus, had signed up for the parade.

“That parade became a nightmare,” Reilly said Monday. “Lives were lost during the middle of what should have been a celebration.”

It is unknown why Brooks was in Waukesha

Thompson said Brooks had been involved in a domestic dispute shortly before he drove through the parade. But the police did not respond to questions about exactly where that dispute took place, or why they believe that Brooks had come to Waukesha in the first place.

In court records, Brooks usually listed addresses in Milwaukee, about 20 miles east of Waukesha. It is expected that more information will be released Tuesday, when Brooks is expected to make his initial appearance in court.

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