By SCOTT BAUER and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
WAUKESHA, Wisconsin (AP) – An SUV driver whizzed through a police line and into a parade of Christmas marchers Sunday, hitting more than 20 adults and children in a horrific scene captured by the city’s livestream and cell phones from spectators.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said “some” people had been killed but would not give an exact figure. One person was remanded in custody, he said, but he gave no indication of the motive.
A video shows a woman screaming, “Oh my God!” repeatedly after a group of girls wearing Santa hats and dancing with white pompoms are hit. Another shows the SUV plowing into members of a marching band, their music replaced with terrifying screams
Fire Chief Steven Howard said 11 adults and 12 children were injured and transported to hospitals by his ward. It was unknown how many people were taken to hospitals by others. The Wisconsin Children’s Hospital said it received 15 patients from the parade and no one reported deaths from 6 p.m.
Police also had custody of the vehicle, Thompson said. The investigation was underway with the assistance of Wisconsin’s Department of Justice.
“What happened in Waukesha today is sick, and I have full confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice,” tweeted State Attorney General Josh Kaul.
As the SUV broke through barricades, a Waukesha police officer fired his gun in an attempt to stop the vehicle, Thompson said. No spectators were injured and Thompson said he did not know if the driver was hit by the officer’s bullets.
A video shows the moment the SUV broke through the barricades, and the sound of what appears to be multiple shots.
The video, which was taken when the pompom dancers were hit, ends with a group of people taking care of one of the girls who is on the ground.
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV.
“They were pompoms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to another to find my daughter,” he said. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everyone. Please pray. ”
A post in the parade, Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, wrote on its Facebook page that “members of the group and volunteers were affected and we are awaiting notification of their relationship.” The group’s profile describes them as a “group of grandmothers who meet once a week to practice 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 2 were pulled in carriages to the age of 18. Germain, whose own 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving in front of their driveway when he saw a reddish-brown SUV that “just crashed right past us.” A police officer came by on foot and chased after, he said. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and gathered the girls who were with him.
“There were little kids lying across the road, there were police officers and EMTs doing CPR on several members of the parade,” he said.
Angelito Tenorio, a councilor from West Allis who is running as treasurer in Wisconsin, said he saw the parade with his family when they saw the SUV come rushing into the area.
“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard deafening cries and screams from the crowd, from the people at the parade. And people started hurrying and ran away with crying tears in their eyes.”
The Waukesha school district canceled classes on Monday, saying in a statement on its website that additional counselors would be present for students and staff. The parade’s list of enrollments included cheers, dancing and band performances associated with district schools.
Governor Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, “prayed for Waukesha tonight and all the children, families and community members affected by this senseless act.”
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, who was at the parade but walked just before the event, called it “an indescribable tragedy affecting us all as we work to overcome two extremely challenging years and resume our beloved holiday traditions.”
The parade is sponsored by the City Chamber of Commerce. This year’s edition was the 59th of the event held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee and about 55 miles north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday was acquitted of charges stemming from the shooting of three men during riots in that city in August 2020.
___ Bauer reported from Madison, Wis. Associated Press reporter Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis.