At least five people have been killed and 40 injured – including at least 12 children – after a speeding SUV plowed into a Christmas parade in suburban town near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Sunday.
A red Ford Escape broke through barriers in Waukesha, Wisconsin, around 4.40pm as the parade was taking place and drove at speed through crowds, sending bodies flying as horrified families watched on helplessly.
Police say a ‘person of interest’ is now in custody, but no arrests have been made. ABC News cites an unnamed law enforcement source who says there might have been a second person in the vehicle.
An internal memo that went out to police said: ‘Police have one subject in custody and one remains at large.’
Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said no motive has yet been established, but officers are not discounting terrorism. Officers are also looking into the possibility that the suspect was fleeing an earlier incident involving a knife when he reached the parade, NBC said.
Detectives will not yet confirm if they believe the attack was a deliberate act of terror, or if the suspect lost control of the vehicle while fleeing an earlier crime. They have also refused to comment on whether the incident has anything to do with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict in Kenosha, 50 miles away. A press conference has been scheduled for 2pm EST.
Chief Thompson said one officer fired at the vehicle in an unsuccessful bid to stop it, with witnesses saying it sped along the parade route and did not slow down even as it hit a schoolgirls’ dance troupe and elderly members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, along with families sitting by the side of the road.
Dozens of pieces of footage – intended to capture joyous scenes from the annual event – ended up capturing the carnage instead, revealing the car traveled at least three blocks down the parade route before breaking through barriers and speeding away.
A picture captured later at an unknown location showed what appeared to be the vehicle involved backed on to a driveway with the hood badly dented and bent up. It is unclear how the vehicle came to be there.
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team – made up of girls aged between nine and 15 – was hit by the SUV.
‘They were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,’ he said. ‘My wife and two daughters were almost hit.
‘I saw bodies flying. I ran down the parade route to find my girls. Addison, my daughter, heard someone yell ‘car’ and ran away. The girls right next to her were hit.
‘I was there. It was little kids and families… evil is real, fight it every chance you get.’
Others described how a moment of silence as people stood in shock gave way to screams of terror and scenes of chaos as people ran to tend to the wounded.
The incident comes just two days after Kyle Rittenhouse, the accused Kenosha shooter, was acquitted of murder charges in the deaths of two men during the unrest that erupted last year in the wake of a police shooting of a black man. Kenosha is located about 55 miles south of Waukesha.
The Rittenhouse acquittal, which stoked division along political and racial lines, prompted local and national authorities to place security forces on high alert.
BREAKING: First video of a red Ford Escape breaking through barriers after mowing down parade goers and firing rifle into crowd in Waukesha, WI pic.twitter.com/QHDi2fsKDz
— David Kimball (@wxandnews) November 21, 2021
The head of the fire department said that 11 adults, including a priest, and 12 children were rushed to six different hospitals in the area. They include several elderly women who were part of a ‘Dancing Grannies’ float and members of a schoolgirls’ dance team, according to reports.
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that ‘members of the group and volunteers were impacted and we are waiting for word on their conditions’.
The group’s profile describes them as a ‘group of grannies that meet once a week to practise routines for summer and winter parades’.
Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Centre studio, had about 70 people in the parade ranging from the ages of two to 18.
Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, said it was treating 15 patients. Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, told CNN that it is treating 13 patients.
Three are listed in critical condition, four in serious condition and six in fair condition.
Jordan Woynilko, a Milwaukee man who shared video of the incident’s aftermath, said he was stepping out of a pub along the parade route when he walked into a scene of desperation and despair.
‘There were moms and dads yelling for their kids, people running around,’ he said. ‘When I rewatched the video, I could hear people talking, and they were like, ‘There’s eight people injured down there. We need an ambulance over here.’ There’s one lady kneeling on the ground crying.’
Brayden Kowalski, a 19-year-old man who grew up in Waukesha, said that he was at the parade with his family when he saw an SUV accelerate through the crowd.
‘He’s just blowing through people, kind of just dinging a lot of people, bodies flying everywhere,’ Kowalski said. ‘These people didn’t get run over, they got f***ing thrown through the air. Like a lot of people got tossed up into the air.’
Another video shows the speeding SUV narrowly miss a young girl who was dancing in the street as the out-of-control vehicle drove by just feet away. Several witnesses reported seeing small children laying on the ground after they were hit by the runaway SUV.
The White House on Sunday said it was monitoring the situation. President Joe Biden was briefed by aides on the incident, according to a White House official.
‘The White House is closely monitoring the situation in Waukesha and our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this terrible incident,’ a White House official said.
‘We have reached out to state and local officials to offer any support and assistance as needed.’
At around 7:15pm local time, the Waukesha Police Department sent a push alert to cell phones of residents in the area asking them to shelter in place ‘within a half-mile radius of the 5 points downtown.’
‘We have a person of interest that we are looking into at this time,’ Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson told reporters. Thompson said that the SUV rammed into the crowd at 4:39pm local time – 39 minutes after the parade started.
‘The Waukesha Christmas parade was taking place when a red SUV drove through the barricades westbound heading down Main Street…An officer did discharge his weapon at the suspect vehicle to try to stop the vehicle,’ Thompson said.
‘No bystanders were injured as a result of the weapon discharge. The officer involved has been with the department for six-and-a-half years.’
The shelter in place order remained in place as police investigated and cleared the scene.
‘What took place in Waukesha today is sickening, and I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice,’ tweeted the state’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Witnesses said that the paradegoers initially thought that the red SUV was part of the procession. It was only after the vehicle sped up and began running over people, did they realize that something was wrong.
One entry in the parade, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, posted on its Facebook page that ‘members of the group and volunteers were impacted and we are waiting for word on their conditions.’
The post asked people to keep the Grannies and anyone else injured in their prayers.
The group’s profile describes them as a ‘group of grannies that meet once a week to practice routines for summer and winter parades.’
Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, had about 70 girls in the parade ranging from as young as two being pulled in wagons to age 18.
Germain, whose own three-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving at the head of their entry when he saw a maroon SUV that ‘just blazed right past us.’
A police officer came by on foot chasing after, he said. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and gathered the girls who were with him.
‘There were small children laying all over the road, there were police officers and EMTs doing CPR on multiple members of the parade,’ he said.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released a statement confirming that parishioners, including children, were among those injured.
The children attend Waukesha Catholic School. The archdiocese said that one of its priests was also among the injured.
‘Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,’ Sandra Peterson, communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said in a statement.
‘Among the injured are one of our Catholic priests, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children.
‘Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.’
The School District of Waukesha has canceled all schools tomorrow November 22nd, and will make a decision later to potentially close November 23rd.
‘As a result of this situation, school will be canceled on Monday, November 22, 2021, for all students in grades 4K – 12,’ the school district said in an email Sunday night.
‘Additionally, the District will have additional counselors available during the school day at all buildings for all students that may be in need of support services.’
The district added in its statement: ‘A decision on school for Tuesday will be determined during the day on Monday.
‘Our thoughts are with everyone impacted, with all who witnessed the event, and with our entire community.’
Mayor Shawn Reilly told WITI in Milwaukee that he does not believe there is any current danger to the public.
One video shows the SUV striking what appears to be members of a marching band and several others along the parade route before driving on.
The sound of the marching band heard before the SUV approaches is replaced by screams.
Video circulating on social media shows the red SUV driving at unusually high speed through the downtown Waukesha area.
The vehicle sped through the holiday parade even as people participating in the procession waved flags. Dozens of people were injured near the intersection of Main and Barstow streets in downtown Waukesha, according to reports.
Moments after the SUV drives by, screams can be heard in the background. A law enforcement official is then seen giving chase after the SUV.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was watching the parade with his family when they saw the SUV come speeding into the area.
‘Then we heard a loud bang, and just deafening cries and screams from people who are struck by the vehicle,’ Tenorio said.
‘And then, and then we saw people running away or stopping crying, and there, there are people on the ground who looked like they’d been hit by the vehicle.’
Tenorio said he saw about 10 people, children and adults, on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the vehicle.
‘It just happened so fast,’ he said. ‘It was pretty horrifying.’
Law enforcement officials are urging locals to avoid the downtown Waukesha area as the investigation is ongoing. Police have also set up a family reunification location at Metro Transit Center near Bank Street.
Video posted on social media shows dozens of emergency vehicles responding to the scene in downtown Waukesha on Sunday night.
‘There were lots of families, lots of small children there. A red SUV came running down the street, hitting a lot of people in the parade,’ Kaylee Staral, an eyewitness who was at the parade with her mother and stepfather, told CNN.
Staral told The New York Times that she and her family were standing at the curb outside a store when the red SUV sped through in the middle of the parade.
Staral, an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper, said the SUV plowed into the paradegoers between 20 and 30 minutes after the festivities began.
‘There were a lot of screams,’ Staral said. ‘We thought maybe it was Santa, but it was a red SUV and it hit a lot of people.’
Moments later, Staral said that there were ‘multiple people on the ground.’ She later clarified that there were some 20 people on the ground.
Staral also said police reported that gunshots were fired, but ‘I cannot confirm that for you.’
She said that it wasn’t clear if the driver was heard saying anything since he was ‘going very fast’ and that there was ‘a lot of screaming.’
Staral said that while it is unclear if the driver was intentionally trying to mow down people, the car ‘was going very fast and it was in the middle of the parade.’
‘It’s not like they somehow missed that there was a parade happening,’ she said.
Staral said that the annual holiday parade was held for the first time in two years. Last year’s parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another witness tweeted: ‘Right in front of my family, this man drives through the parade hitting as many people as possible while shooting out the window.
‘He ran over several elderly women who were dancing in the parade and many others please pray for everyone in Waukesha.’
The witness added: ‘Waukesha has some of the nicest families and people in this country.
‘This parade is one of the most heartwarming events of the year, this is not the America my little cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, ANYBODY deserves.
Angela O’Boyle lives on the fifth floor of an apartment building that overlooks the parade route.
She told CNN that she was on her balcony watching the procession.
‘The next thing I heard were screams and turned my head and saw the car come and plow into the band that was just pass my balcony at that point,’ she said.
She added: ‘It hit at least two people right away and rolled over them.
‘And then continued down the road to People’s Park, which is at the end of the block – and then kept going, it didn’t stop.’
According to Boyle, people screamed and parents yelled out their children’s names.
‘It was not something that I wanted to see.’
A television news reporter for Fox6 TV tweeted photos from the scene.
The reporter, Sam Kraemer, tweeted: ‘The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office incident command post is on site.
‘There are bag chairs and handfuls of candy stranded all along Main Street. Another man told us he heard a handful of shots and ran for cover.
‘He was almost hit by the SUV as it pulled through.’
The official social media account of the City of Waukesha indicates that the parade started at 4pm local time.
The parade route began at the intersection of Main Street and Pleasant Street. It starts westward down Main Street and ends at Wisconsin Avenue.
The parade was livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page.
‘Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act,’ Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wrote on Twitter.
‘I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information.’
The most senior public official in Waukesha County released a statement saying that he was at the event with his wife.
‘This is an unspeakable tragedy, affecting us all as we work to overcome an extremely challenging two years and resume our cherished holiday traditions,’ Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said.
‘Keep the families affected in your thoughts as we work to offer whatever support we can.
‘I have been in contact with Mayor Reilly and offered any resources the county could provide.
‘I have also spoken with the Governor who offers his prayers and assistance. Right now, we are still learning about what happened.
‘This is an active investigation, and all updates tonight will come from our law enforcement partners.
‘I had just finished participating in the parade with my wife when I noticed police sirens.
‘Shortly afterward, I learned that a vehicle drove through the parade route injuring many people.
‘Please pray for our community tonight after the horrific events at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.’
Senator Tammy Baldwin, who represents Wisconsin, tweeted: ‘The horrific violence at the Waukesha Christmas Parade is just heartbreaking. Please keep the victims in your prayers tonight.’
Senator Ron Johnson also released a statement, tweeting: ‘My thoughts and prayers for everyone injured in Waukesha’s Christmas parade.
‘My gratitude for all law enforcement, medical personnel, and community members who are responding.’
Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, tweeted: ‘Our hearts are broken tonight watching the terrible news coming out of Waukesha.
‘Praying for the victims and every family impacted – and for the speed and fortitude of our law enforcement to find the monsters who did this.’
The Green Bay Packers professional football team also released a statement on Sunday.
‘Our thoughts are with the community of Waukesha this evening and those affected by the terrible, senseless act that took place at the holiday parade,’ the Packers said in a statement.
‘We are grateful for the first responders and others who assisted the injured and comforted those in need.
‘We share our condolences with those who lost loved ones.
‘As a statewide community, we must all come together to support each other in these difficult times.’
The NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks also released a statement expressing anger over the tragedy.
‘We are devastated and angry by the senseless and horrific act in Waukesha today and send our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones,’ the Bucks said in a statement.
‘Our gratitude goes out to the first responders and those who valiantly helped to save others at the scene.
‘What we witnessed today is beyond comprehension, so we encourage the Wisconsin community to support each other during this sad time.’