Bail for Waukesha parade crash suspect raises questions

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) – The suspect in a Christmas parade accident in suburban Milwaukee that killed five people was free on a $ 1,000 bond paid just two days before the deadly event, a fact that leads to a review of what happened and renewed calls to give judges more power to set higher bonds.

A pending case against Darrell Brooks Jr. included an allegation he purposely hit a woman with his car in early November after a scuffle. Milwaukee County prosecutors on Monday called their bail recommendation “weakly weak” given the facts of that case and Sunday’s crash, and said they would review it.

Julius Kim, defense attorney and former deputy prosecutor, said the bail could easily have been set at more than twice as much.

“He was accused of crushing the mother of his child, and putting it at $ 1,000 seems like that low to me,” Kim said. “It could have been an inexperienced lawyer reviewing cases that day.”

Police said Brooks, 39, was behind the wheel of the SUV that raced through the parade route in Waukesha on Sunday, killing five people and injuring 48 others. Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks was leaving the scene of a family dispute that had taken place minutes earlier.

Brooks has been charged with crimes 16 times since 1999 and had two cases pending against him at the time of the parade disaster. This included resistance or obstruction of an officer, reckless endangerment, disorderly driving, bail and battery for the Nov. 2 incident.

Thompson said police would recommend that he face five counts of intentional first degree homicide, punishable by life in prison.

Legal experts have warned that an extreme case should not be a reason to demand higher bonds that would keep poorer defendants behind bars longer while awaiting trial.

“We don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction here and say ‘Let’s lock up a lot of people before trial,’ said John Gross, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin law school and also director of its Public Defender Project.

“I’m sure the district attorney’s office will come back to this question and ask, ‘Are we wrong? Said Gross, the law professor. “This is such an extreme incident… could they reasonably expect him to get behind a vehicle and run over people on a parade route? What would have alerted you to the capacity he would have had for this kind of violence? “

Some Republicans were quick to jump on the case as an example of a failing legal system.

Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, former Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and 2022 gubernatorial candidate, called the murders “yet another preventable tragedy that occurred because a violent career criminal was allowed to walk around freely and terrorize our community “.

And Republican State Representative Cindi Duchow said she was reintroducing a constitutional amendment that would change the bail process in Wisconsin to allow judges to consider a defendant’s danger to the community when setting the bond. Judges are currently only allowed to consider the possibility that the defendants do not show up to a court appearance when bail is fixed.

“He tried to run over his girlfriend with his car – it’s attempted murder,” Duchow said. “If you are a danger to society, you should work hard to get out of it. “

Thompson, the police chief, said there was no evidence the bloodshed on Sunday was a terrorist attack or that Brooks knew anyone in the parade. Brooks acted alone, the chef said.

Brooks had left the site of the domestic unrest before police arrived and was not being pursued by police at the time of the crash, according to the chief, who gave no further details of the dispute.

Brooks is an aspiring rapper. On a YouTube page, a video that has since been deleted showed him banging in front of a red Ford SUV resembling the one in the parade. The rapper uses the name MathBoi Fly on his Twitter and other social media accounts.

On Sunday, a cheerful scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pom poms gave way in an instant to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV drove through barricades and punched dancers. , musicians and others in the community of 72,000.

Police identified those killed as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52 years old; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81 years old. Sorenson, Owen, and Durand were members of the Dancing Grannies club, and Hospel helped with the group.

“It looked like models thrown in the air,” said Nicole Schneiter, who was there with her children and grandchildren. “It took a second to register, like, ‘Is this really what we just saw? And then you looked down the road and there were only people lying on the road.

At least nine patients, mostly children, were in critical condition Monday in two hospitals, and seven more were reported in serious condition.

Hundreds of people gathered at a park in downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin Monday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of those lost and injured in a fatal Christmas parade accident a day earlier. A couple of clergy solemnly read the names of those who died. Volunteers distributed sandwiches, hot chocolate and candles during the vigil, which was attended by interfaith leaders and elected officials.

“We are parents. We are neighbors. We are in pain. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are grateful. We are all in there. We are Waukesha Strong, ”said Amanda Medina Roddy of the Waukesha School District tearfully.

The chief said police were not chasing Brooks until he entered the parade route, but an officer fired a shot in an attempt to stop him. The officer stopped firing due to danger to others. Brooks was not injured.

Mayor Shawn Reilly described the parade as a ‘Norman Rockwell type’ event that ‘turned into a nightmare’.


Bauer reported from Madison, Wis., And Condon reported from New York. Associated Press editors Kathleen Foody in Chicago, Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, and Michael Biesecker in Washington contributed.

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