5 dead, more than 40 injured after SUV driving through Wisconsin Christmas parade

A car drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sunday afternoon, leaving at least five people dead and more than 40 injured, including children, said authorities.

Dozens of officials responded after the incident around 4:40 p.m. local time. A livestream video of the event appears to show a red SUV whizzing through the parade route, annoying those gathered on the street. A police vehicle is seen rushing through the crowd shortly after before participants begin to disperse.

City Police Chief Dan Thompson said authorities have identified a person of interest who is in custody, though he added officers were still investigating a “very fluid investigation.” The boss added that the place was safe and that there were no further threats to the public.

At least 11 adults and 12 children were transported to six hospitals in the area after the incident. Many more people took themselves to the hospital, authorities said. Officials did not provide further information on the age of the dead.

“Tonight was a traumatic situation for the town of Waukesha,” said the town’s mayor, Shawn Reilly, said. “We do not have all the details. We can not provide details at this time.”

Police search the streets of downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin, after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (AP Photo / Jeffrey Phelps)
Police search the streets of downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin, after a vehicle plowed into a Christmas parade on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (AP Photo / Jeffrey Phelps)

They at the scene described a festive atmosphere that quickly became tragic after the car drove through security barricades along the city’s main street. More than 60 groups were gathered for this year’s event after the 2020 celebration was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we walked back between the buildings, we saw an SUV crossover, just set the pedal to metal and just zoomed at full speed along the parade route,” Angelito Tenorio, a councilor for West Allis, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And then we heard a loud bang and just deafening shouts and screams from people who were hit by the vehicle.”

He said he saw people running crying from the spot, and people on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the car.

Local journalists said it looked like more people were on the ground shortly after the incident. Thompson said an officer fired his weapon at the suspect’s vehicle, but so far there was no further evidence of any other shot.

Many families attended the event with young children, as did groups affiliated with local schools, including a high school marching band. That Milwaukee Archdiocese said one of its pastors was injured, as were “several parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren.”

Corey Montiho, a member of the Waukesha School Board, told the Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was marching in the parade and many members were 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 told the newspaper Molly Beck. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit.”

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a self-described “group of grandmothers” who march in about 25 parades a year, said members of their group were participant in Sunday’s event and affected by the vehicle but had no further information.

Governor Tony Evers (D) called the incident a “meaningless act” and said his office was awaiting more information.

Kaylee Staral, an intern at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was at the parade on Sunday. She told CNN that the SUV came “running down the middle of the street” and hit “many people.”

“After the SUV left, there were more people on the ground and the police came through a little later and said at least 30 on the ground,” Staral said. She added that the car was driving “very fast.”

The Waukesha Christmas Parade, held approximately 17 miles west of downtown Milwaukee, is an annual event that has been held for more than 50 years. The city describes it as a holiday tradition that brings together “local civic groups, businesses, schools, public services and entertainers every year the Sunday before Thanksgiving.”

Photos on the city’s Instagram account showed many people sitting on the curb right by the parade route.

This year’s theme was “comfort and joy.”

Wisconsin has been on edge for several days following the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty on Friday after killing two people during a Black Lives Matter demonstration last summer. Protests following the verdict have been largely peaceful in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the trial was being held.

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