A joyous scene with marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving fanfare turned deadly in an instant when an SUV rammed through barricades and into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people. and more than 40 others were injured.
In one video, a woman is seen shouting, “Oh my god!” A group of young dancers were killed repeatedly on Sunday. One father spoke of going “from one mutilated body to another” in search of his daughter. Members of a “Dancing Grannies” club were among those to be hit.
The city of Waukesha posted on its social media accounts late Sunday that it could confirm that at least five had died and more than 40 were injured, while noting that it was still collecting information. The city statement also said that many people took themselves to hospitals. The city did not release any additional information about those who died.
A “person of interest” was in custody, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said, but he did not provide any details about the person or any possible motive. The investigation was ongoing with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Attorney General Josh Kaul, the state’s top law enforcement official, tweeted: “What happened in Waukesha today is tragic, and I am sure those responsible will be brought to justice.”
The horrors were recorded by livestreams of the city and the cellphones of the spectators. A video shows the SUV breaking barricades and several gunshots are heard. Thompson said a Waukesha police officer fired his gun to try to stop the vehicle. No spectators were injured by the bullets, and Thompson said he did not know whether the driver had been hit by the officer’s bullets.
In another video, a small child is seen dancing in the street, as the SUV moves just a few feet from him, before taking the parade participants a few hundred feet ahead. A video of the dancers, with fanfare, ends with a group of people caring for a girl on the ground.
“There was fanfare and shoes and hot chocolate scattered everywhere. I had to go from one body to another to find my daughter,” Waukesha School District board member Corey Montiho told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My wife and two daughters are almost hurt. Please pray for everyone. Please pray.”
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on their Facebook page that “group members and volunteers were impressed and we await word on their terms.” The group’s profile describes them as “a group of grandmothers who meet once a week to practice routines for the summer and winter parades.”
Milwaukee Diocese spokeswoman Sandra Peterson said the wounded included a Catholic priest, several parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren.
Aspire Dance Center studio co-owner Chris Germain’s parade was attended by about 70 people, ranging in age from 2 to 18 years old. Jermaine, whose 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving to the head of his entrance when he saw a red SUV that was “blazing right in front of us.” While chasing a policeman escaped. Jermaine said he jumped out of his SUV and gathered the girls who were safe with him.
Then he proceeded to see the damage.
“There were small children lying on the street, police officers and EMTs doing CPR on several members of the parade,” he said.
West Allis alderman Angelito Tenorio, running for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he was watching the parade with his family when he saw an SUV speeding into the area.
“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard screams and screams from the crowd, from the people in the parade. And people started running, with tears in their eyes, crying.”
The Waukesha school district canceled classes Monday and said in a notice on its website that additional counselors would be available for students and staff. The parade’s list of entries included cheer, dance and band entries from district schools.
Governor Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, were “praying tonight for Waukesha and all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter that President Joe Biden was briefed on Sunday night. Aid is being offered to local officials, she said, and “our hearts are with the families and the community as a whole.”
Held every year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the parade is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The theme for this year, the 59th, was “Comfort and Pleasure”.