Suspect in deadly Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy may have been fleeing another incident, authorities say
By Joe Sutton, Keith Allen and Travis Caldwell, CNN
(CNN) -- At least five people are dead and more than 40 others are injured after an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, city officials said.
"These numbers may change as we collect additional information. Many people have self-transported to area hospitals," the city of Waukesha tweeted Monday morning.
There are indications the Waukesha suspect was fleeing another incident when he drove into the parade route, according to multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the preliminary investigation findings.
While early in the investigation, there is no known connection to international or domestic terrorism, and it does not appear to be connected to the recent verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the sources said.
Witnesses described the horror of seeing people struck and lying on the ground after a red SUV drove through a series of barricades and barreled into the crowded parade route on Main Street around 4:39 p.m. local time.
On Monday morning, the belongings of paradegoers were still strewn across the scene as authorities try to confirm what led up to the calamity.
Police Chief Daniel P. Thompson said officers are working with the Waukesha County Medical Examiner's Office to identify victims.
Thompson said there is "a person of interest in custody," but would not say whether it was the driver of the SUV nor if any arrests have been made.
"This is still a very fluid investigation," the chief told reporters Sunday night. He said children are among the injured.
A Waukesha police officer opened fire to try to stop the driver, and no bystanders were struck by the officer's gunfire, the chief said. Thompson added he doesn't believe any shots were fired from the vehicle.
"The scene is now safe and secure," Thompson said.
At least several of those hospitalized were in critical condition
Aurora Medical Center-Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, said it was treating 13 patients as of Sunday night: three listed in critical condition, four in serious condition and six in fair condition. "We are deeply saddened by today's senseless tragedy and our hearts are with the Waukesha community," the hospital said in a statement.
Children's Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, said it was treating 15 patients who were hurt, with no reported fatalities as of Sunday night. Waukesha is about 20 miles west of downtown Milwaukee.
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee -- the only Level I trauma center in southeast Wisconsin -- said it was also treating patients from the parade incident but is not providing a specific number nor conditions. Level I trauma centers typically care for the most critically ill patients.
Witnesses describe a joyous night that ended in tragedy
A video obtained by CNN shows the moment the vehicle struck pedestrians. A red SUV is seen hitting an individual participating in a marching band, then the vehicle continues forward, hitting and running over others in the band and crowd before driving away.
Angela O'Boyle, who lives in an apartment on the fifth floor which overlooks the parade route, told CNN she was on the balcony watching when "the next thing I heard were screams, and turned my head and saw the car come and plow into the band that was just past my balcony at that point.
"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."
Boyle said she heard screaming and people yelling out their children's names, adding "it was not something that I wanted to see ... a little freaked out."
Kaylee Staral, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel intern who witnessed the incident, said "probably around 20 to 30 minutes into the parade, a red SUV came running down the middle of the street -- there were a lot of screams -- and we almost thought maybe it was Santa, but it was a red SUV and it hit a lot of people."
Staral went on to say "there were multiple people on the ground."
In her description into those injured, Staral said "right in front of me in the little spot where I was sitting, probably four people were down, so there were a lot of people that ran to go check on them. I believe that the four people in front of me were still breathing but they were down, they were not moving."
Schools closed as a community mourns
Roads in the area will remain closed for at least 24 hours, Thompson said. Businesses along the roadway where the incident took place should remain closed Monday, city officials said.
Waukesha police had sent a push alert to cell phones in the area after the incident, asking those "within a 1/2 mile radius of the 5 points downtown" to immediately shelter in place. The alert is no longer in effect, Thompson said.
The School District of Waukesha canceled classes on Monday, according to the school district, and will determine if classes will resume Tuesday.
"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," school officials said in a statement.
Waukesha County executive Paul Farrow said he "had just finished participating in the parade with my wife when I noticed police sirens." Farrow asked for prayers for the community and said he has been in touch with Mayor Shawn Reilly and Gov. Tony Evers.
The governor said on Twitter, "Kathy and I are praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act. 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."
Waukesha alderman Don Paul Browne told CNN he was marching in the front of the parade and was out before the incident, saying "this is so sad and so senseless."
The White House is in touch with state and local officials, according to a White House official, and President Joe Biden has been briefed.
"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."
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