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Suspect in Waukesha Christmas parade attack had prior criminal record

A police officer uses a flashlight while looking for evidence in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV sped through a barricade and slammed into a Christmas parade, killing and injuring several people on Sunday.
Jeffrey Phelps
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A police officer uses a flashlight while looking for evidence in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV sped through a barricade and slammed into a Christmas parade, killing and injuring several people on Sunday.

Authorities in Waukesha, Wis., announced Monday that 39-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr. has been charged with five counts of homicide after he allegedly drove his car into a Christmas parade over the weekend, killing five people and injuring at least 40 others.

Brooks was acting alone, authorities said in a news conference Monday afternoon. He had been involved in a "domestic disturbance" just prior to crashing his SUV into the parade. Authorities say police were not engaged in a chase of the suspect at the time of the incident, but that one officer did fire several times at Brooks' vehicle as he drove through the parade.

Brooks has a criminal history in Wisconsin. In 2020, he was charged with recklessly endangering safety and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to documents from the Milwaukee District Attorney's office provided to NPR.

The documents also show that Brooks previously used his vehicle to cause harm. Earlier this month, he confronted a woman outside a motel. He knocked her phone out of her hand and drove off. He then returned, punch her in the face and and ran her over with his vehicle. The report notes that the woman had tire marks on her pants in addition to other injuries from the incident.

Brooks was charged in that incident on Nov. 5, but his bail was set at only $1,000. By Nov. 11, he had posted bail and was released from custody.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement emailed to NPR that the state's bail recommendation was "inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks."

"The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail," the statement said.

Chisholm's office added that it was conducting an internal review of the decision of the bail recommendation but made no mention of the Christmas parade attack in which Brooks has been charged.

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