The defendant in a tragic Christmas parade collision in suburban Milwaukee was released on $1,000 bond only two days before the catastrophic event, prompting a study of what transpired and fresh calls for courts to have more discretion to impose larger bails.
One pending case against Darrell Brooks Jr. was an accusation that he struck a lady with his automobile following a disagreement in early November. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County said their bail suggestion was “inappropriately low” given the circumstances of the case and the incident on Sunday, and that they would reconsider it.
The bond might easily have been set more than twice as high, according to Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former assistant prosecutor.
“He was accused of running over his child’s mother, and $1,000 strikes me as a poor figure,” Kim added. “It may have been an unskilled attorney evaluating cases on that particular day.”
Brooks, 39, was the driver of the SUV that drove across the parade route in Waukesha on Sunday, killing five people and wounding 48 more, according to police. Brooks was fleeing the site of a domestic incident that had occurred only minutes before, according to Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson.
Brooks had been charged with crimes 16 times since 1999, and at the time of the parade catastrophe, he had two cases pending against him. For the Nov. 2 incident, that included refusing or obstructing an officer, reckless endangerment, disorderly behavior, bail jumping, and violence.
Thompson said that authorities were planning to prosecute him with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence.
Legal experts emphasized that a single extreme instance should not be used to advocate for larger bail amounts, which would hold impoverished prisoners in jail longer while they await trial.
“We don’t want to have a kneejerk reaction here and say, ‘Let’s lock up a bunch more people pretrial,” said John Gross, a law professor and head of the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Public Defender Project.
“I’m sure the district attorney’s office will look back on this and wonder, ‘Did we do anything wrong?'” Gross, a law professor, explained. “Given the gravity of the situation, could they fairly expect him to go behind the wheel and run people down on a parade route?” What would have tipped you off to the fact that he was capable of such violence?”
The case was quickly seized upon by some Republicans as an example of a flawed legal system.
The deaths were “yet another avoidable tragedy” that occurred because “a violent career criminal was allowed to roam free and threaten our neighborhood,” according to Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, a former Wisconsin lieutenant governor who is running for governor in 2022.
And Republican state Rep. Cindi Duchow said that she will reintroduce a constitutional amendment in Wisconsin that would allow judges to consider a defendant’s risk to the community when determining bond. Judges are now only permitted to consider the potential that defendants would fail to appear in court when setting bail.
“He attempted murder by running over his girlfriend with his automobile,” Duchow added. “If you’re a threat to society, you should have to put forth a lot of effort to leave.”
According to Thompson, there was no proof that the violence on Sunday was the result of a terrorist act or that Brooks knew anybody in the march. Brooks acted alone, according to the chief.
According to the chief, Brooks had fled the scene of the domestic disturbance before cops arrived and was not being pursued by police at the time of the collision.
Brooks is a want tobe rapper. A video that has since been deleted from a YouTube website shows him rapping in front of a red Ford SUV similar to the one seen during the parade. On Twitter and other social media platforms, the rapper goes by the handle MathBoi Fly.
On Sunday, a joyful vision of marching bands and youngsters wearing Santa hats and waving pompoms was quickly replaced by cries and the sight of crushed bodies as the SUV raced past barricades and struck dancers, musicians, and others in the 72,000-person village.
Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81, were among those deceased. The Dancing Grannies club included Sorenson, Owen, and Durand, with Hospel assisting them.
Nicole Schneiter, who was present with her children and grandkids, described it as “dummies being flung in the air.” “It took a second for it to sink in, like, ‘Is that really what we just saw?’ Then you looked down the road, and all you saw were people lying in the road.”
At least nine people, the most of whom were youngsters, were in critical condition at two hospitals on Monday, with seven others in serious condition.
Hundreds of people gathered in a downtown park in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Monday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of those killed and injured in a horrific Christmas parade collision the day before. The names of those who perished were gravely recited by a pair of clerics. At the vigil, which was attended by interfaith leaders and public figures, volunteers gave out sandwiches, hot chocolate, and candles.
“We’re parents,” she says. We live next to each other. We are in pain. We are enraged. We are depressed. We’re perplexed. We appreciate it. This is a team effort for all of us. “We are Waukesha Strong,” a sobbing Amanda Medina Roddy of the Waukesha school system declared.
Brooks was not being pursued by police when he joined the parade path, according to the chief, although an officer did fire a shot to attempt to stop him. Because of the threat to others, the officer ceased fire. Brooks was unharmed.
The parade, according to Mayor Shawn Reilly, was a “Norman Rockwell-type” affair that “turned a nightmare.”