US police identify suspect, victims in parade car ramming

Waukesha, Wisconsin police chief says there are no indications that the incident was a ‘terrorist’ attack.

Police canvass the streets in downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin after a vehicle rammed into a Christmas parade, November 21 [Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo]

Police have identified the suspect accused of driving through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing five and injuring dozens, as 39-year-old Darrell E Brooks.

At a news conference on Monday, Waukesha police chief Dan Thompson said authorities have no evidence to indicate that Sunday’s incident was a “terrorist” attack.

The suspect “intentionally drove his maroon SUV through barricades into a crowd of people”, he told reporters.

“We have information that the suspect, prior to the incident, was involved in a domestic disturbance – which is just minutes prior – and the suspect left that scene just prior to our arrival to the domestic disturbance,” he said.

Thompson named the five victims who died in the incident – four women and one man between the ages of 52 and 81 – and said 48 people also were injured, including two children who are in critical condition.

The police chief said authorities believe the suspect acted alone, but the investigation into possible motives is ongoing. Police would recommend five charges of “intentional homicide” against him, Thompson added.

“We can tell you that the investigation did not indicate that there’s any type of domestic or international type of terrorism,” he said.

A red SUV sped through the crowd at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, about 32 kilometres (20 miles) west of Milwaukee, at approximately 4:39pm (22:39 GMT) on Sunday.

Shortly after midnight local time, the City of Waukesha announced on Twitter that five people had been killed.

“I heard and saw the people being hit, but what you could do more than seeing is hearing, and just that sound was insane,” Jodi Singsime, a 42-year-old nurse who took shelter in a store before going out to help the injured, told the Reuters news agency.

Belen Santamaria, a 39-year-old factory worker who watched the procession from the sidewalk, said the car came “at full speed” towards the crowd. “Then I started to hear people screaming,” she said.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly told reporters on Monday that the city has been holding a Christmas parade for nearly 60 years.

“Last night, that parade became a nightmare. Last night, many were severely injured. Last night, lives were lost during the middle of what should have been a celebration … We experienced a horrific tragedy. We have so much healing that needs to occur,” Reilly said.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers ordered US and state flags to be flown at half-staff on Monday in honour of the victims.

“Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act,” Evers said on Twitter on Sunday. “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.”

Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a dance band that performs at parades, said members of the group were killed in the incident without identifying them.

“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed… of being a Grannie. They were the glue….held us together,” the group said in a Facebook post.

“Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted.”

Police identified the five dead as Virginia Sorenson, LeAnna Owen, Tamara Durand, Jane Kulich and Wilhelm Hospel.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden will receive “regular updates” about the tragedy.

“Our team is in close touch with local officials to offer any support and assistance needed. Our hearts are with the families and the entire community,” she wrote on Twitter.

Later on Monday, Biden said his administration is monitoring the situation “very closely” and offered condolences for the victims’ families.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies