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Death toll in Wisconsin Christmas parade car ramming rises to six

Bail set at $5 million for Darrell Brooks, facing five counts of intentional homicide — and now a sixth murder charge — after driving his SUV into a holiday parade

Toppled chairs line W. Main St. in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV drove into a parade of Christmas marchers on November 21, 2021. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Toppled chairs line W. Main St. in downtown Waukesha, Wis., after an SUV drove into a parade of Christmas marchers on November 21, 2021. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

A child injured when a car plowed into a Wisconsin Christmas parade earlier this week has died, taking the toll from the tragedy to six, a local prosecutor said Tuesday as the suspect appeared in court.

Darrell Brooks, 39, was charged with five counts of intentional homicide, and now faces a sixth murder charge, prosecutor Susan Opper said.

Brooks allegedly steered his red SUV into marching musicians, dancers and children in the annual holiday parade Sunday in the city of Waukesha.

The latest fatality was identified by his parents on a GoFundMe page as Jackson Sparks, eight years old.

“This afternoon, our dear Jackson has sadly succumbed to his injuries and passed away,” wrote Aaron and Sheri Sparks. They said their 12-year-old son Tucker was also injured at the parade, but was “miraculously recovering” and will be discharged from the hospital.

In addition to Sparks, four women and one man were killed and 62 people injured, including other children, some still in critical condition.

A small child takes part in a candle light vigil in downtown Waukesha, Wis., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, after an SUV plowed into a Sunday Christmas parade killing multiple people and injuring dozens. (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)

Brooks appeared in court for his arraignment, his face masked and hands cuffed, keeping his head bowed as a judge said he faced multiple life sentences if found guilty for the deaths.

Waukesha officials said there appeared to be no motive for the disaster, other than that Brooks had driven away from some kind of confrontation as police were called to the scene.

But questions have been raised as to why Brooks, who was arrested in nearby Milwaukee on November 2, just weeks earlier, on multiple charges of domestic abuse for hitting and running over the mother of his child, and had a lengthy arrest record in three states stretching back to 2000, had been released on a minimal bail of $1,000.

The judge set Brooks’ bail at $5 million as his court-appointed attorney said he was “indigent.” Brooks could be heard crying during the proceeding, leaning over with his head nearly in his lap, with his attorney resting a hand on his back.

The city’s livestream video and bystander video captured the chaotic scene when an SUV sped along the parade route and then into the crowd.

According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told police that the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” with no attempt to slow down or stop as it struck multiple people and sent bodies and objects flying.

Debris litters the street at a crime scene on November 21, 2021 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. According to reports, an SUV drove through pedestrians at a holiday parade injuring at least 20 people (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images/AFP)

The criminal complaint said a police officer shot at the vehicle, striking it three times, and a detective stepped in front of Brooks’ vehicle and pounded on the hood, shouting “Stop,” several times but Brooks drove past him. The complaint said the detective was wearing police insignia and a neon orange safety vest.

Brooks has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the November 2 incident.

Hundreds gathered at a downtown park Monday night in Waukesha, Wisconsin, for a candlelight vigil in honor of those lost and hurt. A pair of clergy solemnly read the names of those who died. Volunteers handed out sandwiches, hot chocolate and candles at the vigil, which was attended by interfaith leaders and elected officials.

“We are parents. We are neighbors. We are hurting. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are thankful. We are all in this together. We are Waukesha Strong,” said a tearful Amanda Medina Roddy with the Waukesha school district.

Mayor Shawn Reilly described the parade as a “Norman Rockwell-type” event that “became a nightmare.”

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