NBC 5 Investigates: What We Know About the Suspect in Deadly Christmas Parade Crash

The suspect, identified as Darrell Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee is set to be charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide

The suspect behind a deadly crash at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, had been released on bail days before allegedly plowing his SUV into a crowd at the annual holiday event and his bail is now under review by the Milwaukee District Attorney.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson identified the suspect as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks, of Milwaukee. Thompson said Brooks is set to be charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

NBC 5 Investigates uncovered Brooks' lengthy criminal history in Wisconsin, with court records indicating he bonded out of jail recently after a Nov. 5 arrest for resisting a police officer, bail jumping, 2nd degree recklessly endangering public safety, domestic abuse and battery.

The Milwaukee District Attorney's office said Monday it had requested a cash bail of $1,000 in that case, which was granted by the court and posted by Brooks on Nov. 11, a decision the office now says is under review.

"The state’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks," the DA's office said in a statement. "The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail. This office is currently conducting an internal review of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation in this matter in order to determine the appropriate next steps."

Law enforcement sources earlier told NBC News Brooks was involved in a domestic stabbing incident before the crash. It was not clear who the victim was and the exact circumstances surrounding the incident were not yet clear.

One year ago, Brooks faced charges of recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm while convicted of a felony. He was due to appear in court on that charge on Dec. 20.

Court records show he has spent hundreds of days in jail, mostly on drug and assorted minor charges, and his arrests date back to the '90s. But in February of 2010, he pleaded guilty to charges in Wood County of strangulation and suffocation of an unnamed victim.

In one of his oldest cases, in 1999, when Brooks was just 17 years old, he was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to felony substantial battery with intended bodily harm. 

He was once jailed for being in arrears on child support. During the pendency of that case, he said he had failed to pay because he was serving a six-year sentence out of state. The Wisconsin court records do not list that case.

Thompson said officers were not pursuing the suspect when he entered the route for the annual holiday parade, but an officer did fire a shot to try to stop him. That officer ceased firing after that initial shot, however, because of the danger to others, Thompson said.

An 81-year-old man, a 79-year-old woman and a 71-year-old woman were among the five killed Sunday, police said at a news conference. The other victims were two 52-year-old women. Members of the “Dancing Grannies” club were among those killed, as was an employee of Citizens Bank.

Another 48 were hurt when the suspect "intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people," police said. At least nine patients — most of them children — were listed in critical condition Monday at two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.

Thompson said there is no evidence the crash on Sunday was a terrorist attack, but authorities are asking that anyone with video footage of the suspect submit footage here.

"We are looking for video that a person captured themselves – not video they saw on someone’s social media page. We are only looking for footage of the incident, not the aftermath of the event," the city wrote on its Facebook page.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul tweeted late Sunday that the investigation was ongoing, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

The joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms gave way in an instant Sunday to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others

The incident happened at approximately 4:39 p.m. CT, when the vehicle went through a barricade at Gasper Avenue and Main Street and then proceeded to drive into the crowd, Thompson said.

The parade was live-streamed on Facebook, and a portion of the video showed a red SUV driving through the parade at what appeared to be a high rate of speed followed by gasps and sirens.

One video shows the SUV striking what appears to be members of a marching band and several others along the parade route before driving on. The sound of the marching band heard before the SUV approaches is replaced by screams.

Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee said Monday that it received at least 18 patients from the incident in its pediatric intensive care unit, six of whom are in critical condition. Among those wounded were three sets of siblings, hospital officials said.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on Facebook that they were performing at the Waukesha Christmas Parade when tragedy struck

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group that describes themselves as "an award-winning-group of grannies that perform in about 25 parades each year from Memorial Day to Christmas," posted on Facebook early Monday that some of its members were among the victims.

"Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness," the group wrote. "While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts."

"Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies," the post continued. "Their eyes gleamed.....joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue....held us together."

A Wisconsin alderman who was walking in the Waukesha Christmas Parade recounts the moments he saw an SUV speed into the crowd, killing at least five people and wounding dozens of others.

Waukesha officials advised anyone who may need to talk with someone about the experience of the scene to call 211.

An FBI spokesperson said its Milwaukee field office was aware of the incident and that local and state authorities were leading the response. The White House is also monitoring the situation, according to a statement.

The parade is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s edition was the 59th of the event that’s held each year the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha.

Associated Press/NBC Chicago
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