Several dead after driver brought SUV into Wisconsin holiday parade

WAUKESHA, Wisconsin – It was supposed to be a night of celebration in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Dance groups, marching bands and local politicians marched along Main Street during the Milwaukee suburban Christmas parade, which was returning from a pandemic hiatus.

Then, just before 4:40 p.m., the driver of a red SUV stormed into the barricades and walked through the crowd, killing several people and hitting more than 20. Firefighters said 23 people, including many children, had been taken to hospital with unspecified injuries. . It is not known how many people died or why the attack took place.

“Today our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration,” said Mayor Shawn Reilly, who described seeing smiling children and happy parents when he was walking along the parade route before the attack. “I am deeply saddened to know that so many members of our community went to a parade but ended up suffering from wounds and heartache.”

Waukesha Police Department Chief Daniel Thompson said on Sunday evening that a person of interest was in custody and there was no longer a threat. Eyewitnesses described the driver as male, but this was not confirmed by police. Chief Thompson said shots were fired by police at the driver.

Andy Brodzeller, spokesperson for Children’s Wisconsin, said the hospital admitted 15 patients on Sunday. The hospital only treats pediatric patients. Details of their conditions were not immediately available.

The assault spoiled what participants and spectators described as a happy night in which more than 60 groups, from the Waukesha firefighters to the Old Car Club to the Waukesha Xtreme Dance troupe, were to parade through the center. -city.

Tyler Kotlarek, 28, was watching the parade with members of his family when they heard what at first sounded like cheering, but then they realized it “was screaming,” he said. “It’s the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Mr Kotlarek said the driver appeared to be intentionally heading towards people. This account had not been confirmed by the police.

“He was going from side to side, targeting people,” Kotlarek said. “The car bombed. He was flying that way, intentionally going left to right.

Tom Hickey, 25, was walking near a friend’s float at the back of the parade when he heard honking behind him. A man in a gray sweatshirt and hat who was driving a red Ford Escape was trying to make his way through the crowd, he said. Mr. Hickey said he thought the driver was lost.

Then the driver turned right onto the main parade route, cranked up the motor, and moved down the parade route at what appeared to be maximum speed, he said.

“When he made that right turn, that’s when he got really dangerous,” Hickey said.

Angelito Tenorio, a Democratic candidate for state treasurer, had just finished parading in the parade and was returning to Main Street to catch the rest of the parade with his family when he saw the SUV speeding along of the parade route.

“All of a sudden I heard a loud bang,” said Mr. Tenorio, a nearby West Allis city councilor. “Then I heard loud screams and screams. It was very heartbreaking. “

He described a chaotic scene that left him stunned and shaking.

“People were running away, leaving their things behind sobbing,” he said. “When the crowd cleared, it looked like there were people on the ground who could have been hit by the vehicle.”

In a video posted to the city’s Facebook page, the SUV can be seen speeding down the parade route and screams can be heard from the crowd. Then, seconds later, a policeman walks down the parade route, followed by a number of police vehicles as a group of children from the parade stop performing.

Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin said on Twitter that he and his wife “are praying for Waukesha tonight and for all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”

“I am grateful to the first responders and the people who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners awaiting more information,” he said.

Don Paul Browne, a city alderman, walked in the parade with the mayor but had already left and did not witness what happened. He said the city is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

He described the parade as a family event that draws spectators from other counties. He struggled to understand what had happened, he said, as there was no political connotation or controversy associated with the parade.

Andrés Martínez, Dan Simmons, Robert Chiarito and Vimal Patel contributed reporting.

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