The man suspected of plowing his SUV through a crowd during a Christmas parade in Wausheka, Wisconsin was fleeing a domestic disturbance before he killed at least five people and injured more than 40, police said.
Darrell Brooks Jr, 39, was fleeing a domestic disturbance with a report of a knife when he drove through the parade, Wausheka Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday.
Police are drawing up five charges of intentional homicide against Brooks, Thompson said.
There is no evidence suggesting the crash was a terrorist attack, police said.
The deceased victims’ ages ranged from 52 to 81 years old. Thompson said 48 others were injured in the crash, which was captured on the city’s livestream as the car rammed struck high school band, children’s dance group and the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.
Two of the deceased were members of the ‘Dancing Grannies’ group, and the fifth was an 81-year-old man.
What was supposed to be a festive event turned into a deadly scene in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee, on Sunday afternoon. Officials say the number of those injured and killed may grow as more information comes in.
Social media profiles show that Brooks was an amateur rapper who went by the name MathBoi Fly, and claimed to have ‘turned to the streets at a very young age’ while growing up in a ‘dangerous West Side neighborhood of Washington Park’, the Daily Mail reported.
Brooks has been charged three times in less than two years with recklessly endangering the safety of others, most recently on November 5 as part of a domestic abuse incident for which he was also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer.
In the most recent case, a woman told police Brooks purposefully ran her ‘over with his vehicle’ while she was walking through a gas station parking lot after he followed her there to fight, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The woman was hospitalized for her injuries, court records show.
At the time of Sunday’s events, he had two open felony cases against him, and had been bailed out of jail days before.
The circumstances surrounding the incident and what may have motivated it are being investigated by local officials.
Investigators questioned Brooks throughout the night about whether the driver had been fleeing an earlier incident involving a knife fight.
In the early stages of the investigation, law enforcement officials say the incident was not terrorism, and there was no indication that it was in retaliation for the not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial on Friday.
An FBI spokesperson said that the bureau was aware of the event but that local authorities would lead the inquiry.
Area hospitals reported treating at least 28 people from the parade, including 15 who were taken to Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee and 13 at Aurora Medical Center in Summit. Aurora said in a statement that three of those patients were in critical condition.
Spectators had gathered Sunday afternoon to take in the joyous sights of the holiday parade, full of floats, classic cars and dancing children. The incident, captured on numerous cameras and cell phones showed of onlookers screaming ‘Oh my God’ as dozens of people were struck by the SUV.
Attorney General Josh Kaul, the state’s top law enforcement officer, tweeted: ‘What took place in Waukesha today is sickening, and I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice.’
In the moments after the vehicle plowed into the crowd, people began dispersing.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers shared a statement to Facebook following the horrific event on Sunday evening.
‘I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information,’ Evers wrote.
Evers ordered for flags to be flown at half-staff Monday as a mark of respect for the victims of the parade.
The White House has indicated it is monitoring the situation.
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