The city of Waukesha, Wisc. has confirmed that five people have died and at least another 40 have been injured after a red Ford Escape broke down barriers to drive into a holiday parade on Sunday, Nov. 21, NPR reports. Many of those struck by the vehicle were children.
The incident happened around 4:39 p.m. local time during the 58th annual Waukesha Christmas parade. Details are still sparse as the names of the victims have yet to be released, but several groups in the parade — among them the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, Waukesha Extreme Dance, and the Catholic Community of Waukesha — have issued statements that acknowledge some members of their groups were impacted in the crash. A police officer attempted to fire at the vehicle in an effort to stop it.
Videos of the impact have been shared widely on the internet, but out of respect for those involved, we will not be sharing them here.
Local schools canceled classes on Monday, and the town of Waukesha set up a family reunification center to allow potentially impacted families a chance to find their missing members.
Many questions remain, but investigators believe they have identified the person responsible for the crash. The suspect’s name has been floating around the internet, but we’ll refrain from including it here until it has been verified by a reputable source. The crashed Ford Escape is allegedly registered in the suspect’s name and was later parked in front of the suspect’s house.
Here are some firsthand comments from those who experienced the incident, via NPR:
Waukesha resident Lindsey Ashley, 36, said she was enjoying the parade with her two children, ages 7 and 9, when the SUV drove by them.
“The SUV blazed by where we were sitting and we heard a crash and people screaming,” she told NPR. “I grabbed the kids and took off. People were helping ‘escort’ others to safety.”
She said her two children were horrified and never want to attend another parade.
Tailyr Medrano, who also lives in Waukesha, said she had her 1-year-old son in her arms when she said she witnessed the car plow through the procession “right in front of us.” She brought her toddler to the parade so he could see Santa for the first time, she told NPR over Facebook messenger.
“[I]nstead he sees a red suv running over people that are suppose to be entertaining us and children on the ground bleeding,” she wrote.
The Waukesha incident is another example of vehicles intentionally being used as weapons against large gatherings of people. Several of these incidents have taken place at politically-charged gatherings, such as protests or Pride parades, while others have come from seemingly innocuous get-togethers.
Update Monday, Nov. 22, 11:12 a.m. ET: The Associated Press has reported that the suspect involved in the Waukesha, Wisc. crash may have been fleeing a different crime. The suspect has been officially identified by law enforcement as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr., who had posted a $1,000 bond on Friday, Nov. 19.
Online court records also show that he has two active criminal cases. In one, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless homicide, disorderly conduct, bail jumping, and battery. In the second, he is charged with reckless endangering and illegal possession of a firearm.
Should this speculation prove correct — should Brooks have been fleeing the police for an unrelated incident — then that would change the complexion of the Waukesha parade crash and its interpretation. That would then make Jalopnik’s initial interpretation of the crash as intentional incorrect, as would other media outlets’ assumptions that this was an act of domestic terrorism.
We will continue to monitor events and update this post as we learn more information.