'This was an intentional act': $5 million bail set for suspect in Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The man accused of plowing through the Waukesha Holiday Parade route, killing six and injuring dozens more, made his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 23. The driver has been identified as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks from Milwaukee. 

Police arrested Brooks near the scene. Officers say he was involved in a domestic disturbance somewhere else before he drove through the parade route. 

Brooks is charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide, which carry possible life sentences. 

He is currently being held on $5 million bond. Waukesha District Attorney Susan Opper requested the $5 million cash bail citing the severity of the charges and Brooks' criminal history.

"He has arrest records across three states, to include Wisconsin, Nevada and Georgia," Opper said.

Over the last two decades, Brooks has had at least 12 convictions. There is currently a warrant for his arrest in Nevada for failing to comply with sex offender registry requirements.

Police say just three weeks ago, in Milwaukee County, Brooks ran over a woman he has a child with. His bail was set at just $1,000, which he paid before being released. Now, the Milwaukee District Attorney's Office is conducting an internal review. They say the bail was set "inappropriately low." 

"The nature of this offense is shocking," said Court Commissioner Kevin Costello. "The detail I was not expecting here today -- that two detectives, not lay people, detectives -- not only tried to stop this, but rendered an opinion that this was an intentional act. I've not seen anything like this in my very long career."

Brooks cried in court Tuesday as he faced charges that would send him to prison for the rest of his life, but the criminal complaint paints a picture of a man who acted deliberately and without emotion as he plowed down his victims, including children and the elderly.

Wearing a suicide prevention smock, rocking back and forth in his seat, Brooks made his first court appearance as several members of the victims' families sat just feet away from him.

"There are not words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community," Opper said.

A criminal complaint says law enforcement attempted to stop Brooks numerous times before he struck multiple parade participants and spectators Sunday evening, Nov. 21. The complaint says a detective working traffic control for the Waukesha Christmas parade near White Rock Avenue and E. Main Street saw the red Ford Escape driving southbound just after 4:30 p.m. as people jumped out of the way.

The detective stepped in front of the vehicle, pounded on the hood and yelled multiple times "stop," but the SUV continued driving, turning westbound on E. Main Street. The detective then went to the driver's side window and pounded on the door, again yelling at the driver, later identified as Brooks, to stop.

The complaint says Brooks drove past the detective and into the parade procession. The detective chased the vehicle as he saw the vehicle begin to drive faster.

While driving westbound on E. Main Street, the complaint says Brooks struck numerous pedestrians, including parade participants and spectators located on the side of the street.

Another officer assisting with crowd control in the area of E. Main Street and N. East Avenue saw the SUV around 4:38 p.m. and began attempting to get Brooks' attention. He put his hand up and yelled "stop the vehicle" multiple times. The complaint says the the officer saw Brooks looking straight ahead, directly at him, and it appeared he had "no emotion on his face."

When the vehicle approached the intersection of E. Main Street and NW Barstow Street, prosecutors say Brooks rapidly accelerated, taking an abrupt left turn into the crowd of participants.

At this point, the complaint says officers realized this was an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible. An officer on scene reported the vehicle appeared to be intentionally moving side to side, striking multiple people. One officer continued to chase the vehicle on foot as multiple people reportedly pulled at him, asking for assistance with injured parties. Another officer shot at the suspect vehicle, striking it three times.

Investigators spoke with a witness who indicated that the driver drove in a zig zag motion, as if "trying to avoid vehicles, not people." Another witness told authorities they felt it was a "direct intent to hit as many parade participants."

The district attorney says she intends to file a sixth count of first degree intentional homicide after learning 8-year-old Jackson Sparks died from his injuries.

The cause of death for five of the victims was determined to be multiple blunt force injuries -- the sixth has yet to be announced.

The six victims killed have been identified as:

  • Virginia Sorenson, 79
  • Leanna Owen, 71
  • Tamara Durand, 52
  • Jane Kulich, 52
  • Wilhelm Hospel, 81
  • Jackson Sparks, 8

Prosecutors say 62 other people were hurt, some of them critically. 

Brooks will be back in court Jan. 14 for a preliminary hearing.

If you've been personally impacted by this event, or would like to offer assistance to those affected, take a look at the following resources and opportunities to help HERE

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