By Scott Bauer and Homeowner Mike | Associated Press
WAUKISHA, WES (AP) – A cheerful scene of bands and children dancing Santa Claus hats and waving sacks of balls turned to death in an instant as an SUV sped through barricades and into a Christmas parade in a Milwaukee suburb, killing five people. At least, more than 40 others were injured.
One of the videos showed a woman screaming, “Oh my God!” Time and time again as a group of young dancers were beaten up on Sunday. The father talked about moving “from one wrinkled body to another” in search of his daughter. Among those affected were members of the “Dancing Grannies” club.
And the city of Waukesha published on its social media accounts, late Sunday, its confirmation of the death of at least five and the injury of more than 40 others, while indicating that it was still collecting information. The city’s statement also noted that many people had taken themselves to hospitals. The city did not release any additional information about the dead.
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said a “person of interest” was in custody, but did not give details of the person or any possible motive. The investigation was ongoing with the assistance of the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“What happened in Waukesha today is disgusting, and I have full confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice,” Attorney General Josh Cowell, the state’s chief law enforcement official, wrote on Twitter.
The horror was recorded by live broadcasts in the city and the cell phones of viewers. One of the videos shows the moment the SUV broke through the barriers and the sound of what appeared to be several gunshots. Thompson said a Waukesha police officer fired his rifle to try to stop the car. No bystanders were injured in the shooting, and Thompson said he did not know if the driver was shot by the officer.
Another video shows a little girl dancing in the street as the SUV drives fast, just a few feet from it, before rushing toward the parade participants a few hundred feet away. One of the videos ends, of dancers wearing balls, with a group of people looking after a girl on the floor.
“There were pellets and shoes and hot chocolate splattered everywhere. I had to go from one wrinkled body to another to find my daughter,” Cory Montehu, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. My wife and daughters were almost injured. Please pray for everyone. Please pray.”
The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that “group members and volunteers have been affected and we await word on their circumstances.” The group’s profile describes them as “a group of grandmothers who meet once a week to practice routines on summer and winter walks.”
Milwaukee Archdiocese spokeswoman Sandra Peterson said a Catholic priest, several parishioners and Waukesha Catholic schoolchildren were among those injured.
Chris German, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, had about 70 people on the show, ranging in age from as young as two years old, who were dragged in wagons to as young as 18. He was driving at the head of their entrance when he saw a chestnut SUV that “just caught fire in front of us”. A police officer ran into the chase. Germain said he jumped out of his SUV and collected the girls who were with him to safety.
Then he advanced to see the damage.
“There were young children lying down along the road, and there were police officers and EMTs doing CPR on several members of the show,” he said.
Angelito Tenorio, an alderman in West Ellis who is running for Wisconsin treasurer, said he was watching the show with his family when they saw the SUV speeding into the area.
Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And then, we just heard the deafening cries and screams of the crowd, of the people at the parade. And the people began to rush, run away with tears in their eyes, and weep.”
The Waukesha School District canceled classes Monday and said in a notice on its website that additional counselors will be accessible to students and staff. Entrances to the procession included cheering, dancing, and a band associated with the area’s schools.
Governor Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, “pray for Waukesha tonight and for all the children, families and members of the community affected by this foolish act.”
The parade, held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. This year, the 59th, its theme was “Comfort and Joy”.
Waukesha is a western suburb of Milwaukee, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday of charges stemming from the shooting of three men during unrest in that city in August 2020.
Power reports from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis.