Darrell Brooks charged with intentional homicide in Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

Police allege Brooks used his vehicle to intentionally 'strike and hurt as many people as possible'

A police car with lights on is parked near yellow police tape.
A police car is parked near the scene of the Christmas parade tragedy Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in Waukesha, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Prosecutors have charged Milwaukee resident Darrell Brooks with five counts of intentional homicide after police alleged he used his vehicle “to strike and hurt as many people as possible” at the Waukesha Christmas Parade Sunday, killing six people and wounding 62 others.

Cash bond was set at $5 million for Brooks, 39, who made his first court appearance Tuesday. Prosecutors said they expected to bring a sixth intentional homicide against Brooks for the latest victim, an 8-year-old boy.

In the criminal complaint against Brooks, the Waukesha County district attorney said multiple police officers tried to stop Brooks’ vehicle as it sped toward the parade route. They included an Officer Butryn, who described Brooks’ behavior as intentional.

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“(Butryn) observed the vehicle appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” the complaint read, “striking multiple people, and bodies and objects were flying from the area of the vehicle.”

Prosecutors also quoted from a witness who allegedly observed the mayhem.

“As I continued to watch the SUV, it continued to drive in a zig zag motion. It was like the SUV was trying to avoid vehicles, not people,” said the witness in the complaint.

Another person who allegedly witnessed the event told police he felt it was “a direct intent to hit as many parade participants.”

Brooks was allegedly involved in a domestic disturbance shortly before he drove through the parade on Sunday. Police said Brooks was taken into custody not far from the parade and not long after.

The victims include Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

The sixth victim, Jackson Sparks, 8, died Tuesday according to updates from his family’s church and a GoFundMe account set up to help with his family with medical costs.

“There’s a number of other charges that we are reviewing and considering, but certainly at the very least, we do intend to file a sixth count of intentional homicide,” said Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper during Tuesday’s hearing. “Certainly if we have any other deaths resulting from this incident, additional counts will be filed.”

The criminal complaint against Brooks also stated for the first time that 62 people were injured in Sunday’s parade, up from the 48 people previously reported injured.

Children’s Wisconsin said Monday they were treating 18 kids — ages 3 to 16 — who sustained injuries during the incident ranging from facial lacerations and broken bones to head trauma. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than $600,000 had been raised to support victims of the parade.

Brooks has a criminal history, including two pending cases in Milwaukee County for which he posted bail to be released from custody while awaiting trial.

On Nov. 2, Brooks allegedly punched the mother of his child in the face and ran her over with his vehicle, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. Police who responded to the incident said the woman had tire tracks on her pants leg.

Brooks was charged with second degree recklessly endangering safety, felony bail jumping, battery, obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct on Nov. 5, but after he posted $1,000 cash bail on Nov. 11, he was released from custody. The Milwaukee County DA’s office issued a statement Monday saying that bail recommendation was “inappropriately low.”

In the other pending complaint, Brooks allegedly fired a gun at his nephew and a friend as they were driving away after a fight on July 24, 2020. Brooks was charged with two counts of second degree recklessly endangering safety and felon in possession of a firearm.

Cash bail was originally set at $10,000 and subsequently reduced to $7,500, but after Brooks’ jury trial was delayed for several months, bail was reduced to $500. Brooks paid the bail on Feb. 9, 2021 and was released.

The $5 million bail set Tuesday is especially high, but Opper argued it was justified given Brooks’ criminal record, which in addition to the pending charges in Milwuakee County also includes convictions in Wisconsin and other states.

“There are not words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community,” Opper said. “Not only flight risks but the dangerousness that he presents.”

“On several occasions, he was told to stop by police officers,” Opper continued. “Everything was done to get him to stop, and he just continued down the roadway causing death and destruction in his path.”

Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said he had no problem with the bail requested by prosecutors.

“It’s extraordinarily high, but it’s an extraordinarily big case,” Costello said.

If he’s convicted of any of the intentional homicide charges stemming from the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, Brooks faces life in prison.