A child injured in the Waukesha parade has died, bringing the toll to six

By Maya Yang

Prosecutors in Wisconsin on Tuesday charged a man with intentional homicide in the deaths of five people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade earlier this week that also left 62 people injured, including many children.

Prosecutors say a sixth person, a child, has died and more charges are pending. Several of those injured remain in critical condition.

Darrell Brooks Jr was charged with five counts of intentional homicide in the crash Sunday in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Conviction on first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence, Wisconsin’s stiffest penalty. The court commissioner set bail at $5m.

Brooks made his initial appearance in court Tuesday. He could be heard crying during the proceeding.

According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told police that the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” with no attempt to slow down or stop as it struck multiple people and sent bodies and objects flying.

The criminal complaint said a police officer shot at the vehicle, striking it three times, and a detective stepped in front of Brooks’ vehicle and pounded on the hood, shouting “Stop” several times but Brooks drove past him. The complaint said the detective was wearing police insignia and a neon orange safety vest.

Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail for a case in Milwaukee county earlier in November in which he is accused of intentionally striking a woman with his car. Prosecutors said they are investigating their bail recommendation in that case, calling it inappropriately low.

“He was accused of running over the mother of his kid and to put it as $1,000 strikes me as low,” said Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former assistant prosecutor.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks, 39, was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier when he drove into the parade route.

Brooks has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the 2 November incident.

Ahead of a first court appearance by the suspect for the parade incident, friends and family members of the injured spoke of their ordeal online.

A young girl who is a member of a dance troupe struck by the SUV told doctors, “Just glue me back together,” according to a fundraising page organized by a family friend.

Online, 12 verified fundraising pages detail some of the injuries from the parade incident. At least 18 children suffered facial abrasions, broken bones and serious head injuries.

A girl named Jessalyn, whose last name is not given, is shown smiling at the camera on one page, wearing a white Santa hat and holding pompoms. She is standing with other members of the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team in a picture taken moments before she was hit.

Jessalyn is “fighting for her life”, according to the account established by a friend, Oscar Luna. She lost a kidney, broke her pelvis and has damage to her liver and lungs, Luna said.

“This holiday season will be a brutal one for them,” he said of her family.

In an update posted on Tuesday morning, Luna wrote that Jessalyn woke up briefly on Monday.

“She is not fully aware of the severity of her injuries but managed to say, ‘Just glue me back together,”’ he wrote. “Only a child could reference themselves as a little doll in this situation.”

Julia, who was also marching with her dance team and whose last name also isn’t given, “is in the fight for her life” after suffering brain trauma, a fundraising page established by family friend Jen McCarthy says.

“Everyone that knows this little girl knows what joy she brings to the world,” the post says. “She has a heart of gold, a smile that can light up the room and is loved by so many.”

Brothers Tucker and Jackson Sparks were among three sets of siblings hospitalized and remain at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, according to a fundraiser organized by a cousin.

Tucker, 12, has head injuries but is recovering. Jackson, eight, suffered a more serious brain injury and “needs a miracle”, according to Alyssa Albro, the niece of the boys’ parents, Aaron and Sheri Sparks.

“The entire family is devastated,” Albro wrote.

More than $615,000 had been raised by Tuesday, less than 24 hours after most of 12 verified GoFundMe pages were established.