Prosecutors in Wisconsin on Tuesday 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 say a sixth person, a child, has died and more charges are pending.
Darrell Brooks Jr. was charged with five counts of intentional homicide in the crash Sunday in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Conviction on first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence, Wisconsin’s stiffest penalty.
Brooks made his initial appearance in court Tuesday. He could be heard crying during the proceeding, leaning over with his head nearly in his lap, with 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 that the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” with no attempt 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 Brooks’ vehicle and pounded on the hood, shouting “Stop,” several times but Brooks drove past him. The complaint said the detective was wearing police insignia and a neon orange safety vest.
Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail for a case in Milwaukee County earlier in November in which he’s accused of intentionally striking a woman with his car. Prosecutors said they’re investigating their bail recommendation in that case, calling it inappropriately low.
One pending case against Brooks included an allegation that he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November 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 defense 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,” Kim said. “It could have been an inexperienced attorney who happened to be reviewing cases that day.”
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks, 39, was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier when he drove into the parade route.
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. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the Nov. 2 incident.
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