By SCOTT BAUER and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) – An SUV rushed through barricades and headed for a parade of Christmas walkers in suburban Milwaukee on Sunday, killing several as it hit more than 20 adults and children in a gruesome scene captured by the city livestream and the cell phones of onlookers.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said “some” people had been killed but would not give an exact number. One person was in custody, as was the SUV, he said, but he gave no indication of motive.
A video shows a woman shouting, “Oh my God! Repeatedly after a group of girls wearing Santa hats and dancing with white pom poms were hit. Another shows the SUV rushing at the members of a marching band, their music replaced by cries of terror.
Fire chief Steven Howard said 11 adults and 12 children were injured and taken to hospitals by his department. It was not known how many people had been taken to hospital by others. The Wisconsin Children’s Hospital said it received 15 parade patients and no deaths reported as of 8 p.m.
A Catholic priest, several parishioners and Catholic schoolchildren in Waukesha were among the injured, said Archdiocese of Milwaukee spokeswoman Sandra Peterson.
Police had custody of the vehicle, Thompson said. The investigation was ongoing, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“What happened in Waukesha today is disgusting, and I have no doubts that those responsible will be brought to justice,” tweeted the state’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Josh Kaul. .
As the SUV passed the barricades in the annual parade, a Waukesha police officer fired his gun in an attempt to stop the vehicle, Thompson said. No passerby was injured and Thompson said he was unsure whether the driver was hit by the officer’s bullets.
Video shows the moment the SUV passed the barricades and the sound of what appears to be several gunshots. Another video shows a young child dancing in the street as the SUV passes a few yards from her, before rushing towards parade participants a few hundred yards in front of him.
The pom pom dancers video ends with a group of people tending to one of the girls who is on the floor.
Corey Montiho, a board member for the Waukesha School District, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV.
“There were pom poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate all over the place. I had to go from one crumpled body to another to find my daughter, ”he said. “My wife and two daughters were almost affected. Please pray for everyone. Please pray.
An entry in the parade, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, posted on their Facebook page that “band members and volunteers have been affected and we are awaiting information on their conditions.” The group profile describes them as a “group of grannies who meet once a week to practice summer and winter parade routines.”
Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, had around 70 girls in the parade, ranging from 2 years old from trolleys to 18 years old. Germain, whose own 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving to the entrance of their driveway when he saw a brown SUV that “just went up in front of us”. A policeman walked past afterwards, he said. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and rounded up the girls who were with him.
“There were small children lying all over the road, there were police and paramedics doing CPR on several members of the parade,” he said.
Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis city councilor who is posing as Wisconsin state treasurer, said he was watching the parade with his family when they saw the SUV rush into the area.
“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard deafening screams and screams from the crowd, from the people in the parade. And people started to rush, to run away with tears in their eyes, crying.
The Waukesha School District canceled classes on Monday and said in a notice on its website that additional counselors would be available for students and staff. The parade entry list included cheering, dancing and marching band entries associated with schools in the district.
Governor Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, “are praying for Waukesha tonight and for all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”
The parade is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year’s edition was the 59th of the event which takes place each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on Friday of charges resulting from the shooting of three men during the unrest in that city in August 2020.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press reporter Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis.
The first paragraph of this story has been corrected to reflect that the SUV rushed through barricades, not a police line.