WAUKESHA, Wis. — Waukesha Police confirmed the deadly parade suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., was involved in a domestic disturbance incident minutes before driving through the Christmas parade, less than a half mile away.
“The suspect, prior to the incident, was involved in a domestic disturbance,” Chief Dan Thompson said. “We have no information that Brooks knew anybody in the parade. But I will say this, we weren’t able to even respond to that domestic call before it actually, so we couldn’t even investigate it. Was there an initial complaint of a knife being involved? Yes. Do we know if there was one there? We don’t know. We didn’t even make it there.”
According to Waukesha Police radio calls, the initial domestic disturbance was around 4:35 p.m. behind the Frame Park Rotary Building. Three minutes later at 4:38 p.m., officers put a call out to take down any barriers near White Rock Avenue and Hartwell Avenue, signifying the end of the parade participants at the staging location near Trinity Lutheran Church.
One minute after that at 4:39 p.m., the first radio calls about Brooks driving through the parade.
“A maroon Ford Escape just blew by White Rock and Hartwell, heading into the parade route.”
"There’s a car going westbound approaching the parade route, a red Escape. Black male. I couldn’t stop it. He’s going westbound, blowing his horn.”
“Santa had just passed our house and then we saw the red SUV barreling through on White Rock [Avenue],” Corrine Long, a witness said. “I mean, we just knew something was happening.”
Long has lived on White Rock Avenue, where the parade begins, for the last 10 years. She was enjoying seeing the behind the scenes of the parade with her family from her porch when the SUV came through at abnormally high speeds.
It stuck out to her because every year, law enforcement shut down the area from all traffic very thoroughly.
“There is no way to get on this street,” Long said. “It’s all blocked off by police or barricades. I couldn’t even get into my own street, because I got home about a half hour before it started. The only way to get in is going around a barricade or going through a parking lot.”
Chief Thompson says Brooks pushed his way through two police vehicles to get to the parade route.
“We had a squad in barricades up and he drove right through the barricades,” Thompson said. “An officer tried to engage and stop the threat but he still continued through the crowd.”
“If you’re going to turn a street into an entertainment venue, the public has an expectation of personal safety,” Rob Reiter, Security Consultant for large public events said. “They’re not going to know what happens a thousand feet down the road.”
Reiter says incidents like this happen all too often. He referenced four different events in the last 20 years; in Santa Monica, California, Austin, Texas, Charlottesville and New York City. However, he says, no matter the size of a city, using rigid barriers like cement or steel should be the standard operating procedure.
“You don’t have to be New York City, spending $2 million at a crack,” Reiter said. “Something like this could be done for probably $10,000 with a little bit of extra installation and you get to use it every year.”
Chief Thompson says more information will come but does not want to jeopardize the investigation.
“This is a fluid investigation,” Thompson said. “What we do not want to do is jeopardize the integrity of this investigation at any point. Right now, our first focus is the families, the victims and due process. That’s the point.”