A city in the American heartland is in mourning and shock after five people were killed and dozens injured when an SUV dispersed a crowd at a Christmas parade and sent people running in horror.
Officials in Waukesha, Wisconsin, said the parade, a “Norman Rockwell-type event” that the city proudly hosted for decades for both residents and visitors, was part of its very fabric.
Yet, this year’s celebrations took a turn for the worse when a speeding SUV was seen breaking the parade road and slamming the participants and spectators on Sunday.
With the state and the nation already in the lead on the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, a proceeding that appears to have divided the nation, some commentators expressed little relief when Waukesha, 50 miles northwest of Kenosha I said the police. They were not treating Sunday’s incident as terrorism.
At a news conference, Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said Darrell Brooks, 39, a nearby resident of Milwaukee, was taken into custody and was to be charged with five counts of “deliberate murder.”
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“They drove right through barricades and officers,” said Mr Thompson, who said any motive was still being investigated. “A few minutes after the incident happened, I reacted to the scene. And what I saw from the chaos and tragedy were the heroes – the first responders in the community coming together and working together on troubling victims.”
He added: “It was not a terrorist incident.”
Police said five people were killed, and their names were Virginia Sorenson, 79, Lianna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81. Many were members of a group called Dancing Grannies.
Earlier, hospital officials said that at least 48 people were injured, many were children, and that many remained in critical condition.
Mayor Sean Walker said the town’s parade, which includes marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats, was a part of Waukesha’s tradition.
He noted that some had described it as a “Norman Rockwell-type” phenomenon, referring to the late American painter, whose works were known for their sometimes idealized depictions of everyday American life.
“Last night we experienced a senseless tragedy. Many of us were participating in the parade and witnessed these horrific actions,” said Mr. Walker, whose city has a population of 72,000.
“The Waukesha is a community that takes pride in its identity and has a wonderful spirit. The Waukesha cares for each other. Waukesha celebrates it and the entire community participates in those celebrations. We are a close-knit community.”
He added: “Wakesha is a community where many of its residents have lived for generations. Waukesha is also a type of community where new residents ask their friends to come here because it’s so special.”
Just days after the incident, a jury in Kenosha found Mr Rittenhouse five related to the shooting of two people and wounding a third, amid protests against the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, last August. Found not guilty of the charges.
Mr Rittenhouse, now 18, argued he had acted in self-defense, and his case was supported by several Second Amendment and gun rights advocates, as well as former President Donald Trump. Several communities in the state and beyond were alerted following the verdict of not guilty.
On Monday, President Joe Biden said he was praying for Waukesha and those affected by the “horrific act of violence.”
“While we don’t have all the facts and details yet, we know this morning that a family of five in Waukesha are facing the new sadness of life without a loved one. At least 40 Americans are suffering from injuries, some of them The situation is critical, and an entire community is struggling, struggling to deal with the horrific act of violence,” he said.
It was revealed that Mr Brooks, the suspect, had just left prison on bail 10 days earlier, for an amount of only $1,000, with officials saying the amount was “unreasonably low”.
Court records show he was charged with recklessly endangering the safety of others less than two years later, most recently on November 5. It was part of a domestic abuse incident for which he was also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, and was granted bail for $1,000.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said it was investigating bail recommendations from previous crimes it said had involved Mr Brooks.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s office said, “The state’s bail recommendation in this case was unreasonably low in light of the nature of the recent allegations and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks.”
“The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office’s approach to cases involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the defendant’s risk assessment prior to the establishment of bail.”
It added: “This office is currently conducting an internal review of the recent decision to recommend bail.”
The scenes of normality suddenly turned horrifying in video footage recorded on Sunday afternoon.
“It looked like the dummy was being thrown in the air,” Nicole Schneiter, who was there with her children and grandchildren, told the Associated Press.
“It took a second to register, like, ‘Did we really just watch?’ And then you looked on the street and there were just people lying on the road.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Waukesha