WAUKESHA, Wis. – Donations to aid the victims of Sunday’s fatal parade crash, many of whom were children, poured in Tuesday as a suspect was expected to face formal charges.
Police say Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, of Milwaukee, was fleeing a domestic disturbance with a report of a knife when he rammed an SUV into the parade route Sunday night, killing five people and injuring at least 48 others.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than $1 million had been donated to crowdfunding campaigns and a community fund for victims. Some of the victims were still fighting for their lives, according to the campaigns.
One child wasn’t aware how severely she was hurt but “but managed to say, ‘just glue me back together,’” family friend Oscar Luna wrote in the GoFundMe page for a girl named Jessalyn. “Only a child could reference themselves as a little doll in this situation.”
Jessalyn lost a kidney, broke her pelvis and has damage to her liver and lungs, Luna said.
Brothers Tucker and Jackson Sparks were among multiple siblings hospitalized after the crash.
Jackson, 8, suffered a serious brain injury and “needs a miracle,” according to Alyssa Albro, the niece of the boys’ parents, Aaron and Sheri Sparks. Tucker, 12, has head injuries but is recovering.
Meanwhile, loved ones mourned the victims who died Sunday. Several of those killed were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies – who with their pom-poms, sense of humor and moxie have entertained crowds across the area for decades.
Virginia Sorenson, 79, was remembered as the heart of the group.
Everyone called her Ginny. She had a bad back and a bad hip but loved to dance.
“What did she like about it? Everything,” said her husband of 56 years, David Sorenson. “She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform.”
Sorenson, a 19-year veteran of the Dancing Grannies, was near the back of the group holding a banner when she was killed.
The man who police say was driving the SUV was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said Monday that police were referring five counts of first-degree intentional homicide to prosecutors and other charges likely were to follow. A charge of first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life prison sentence.
Brooks was free on $1,000 bail posted Friday for another pending case that included an allegation he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November after a fight. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said it has launched an internal review of its “inappropriately low” bail recommendation in that case.
As investigators search for answers, here’s what we know:
A home security video appears to show Brooks’ arrest after he approached a resident asking for help, NBC News reported.
Brooks knocked on the resident’s door Sunday about 20 minutes after the crash and told the resident he was homeless and waiting for an Uber.
The resident told NBC News he had been hunting and was unaware of what had just happened at the parade. He let Brooks inside, gave him a jacket and sandwich and let him use his phone before seeing police cars drive by, NBC reported.
The man asked Brooks to leave and as he exited the house, police officers arrived and told him to put his hands up, the resident told reporters. Part of that interaction was captured on the security video.
Thompson provided few details of the domestic disturbance that happened before Brooks drove through the parade but said there had been a report of a knife and police did not respond to that scene before they went to the parade.
Thompson said Brooks was acting alone and there was no indication of terrorism or that Brooks knew anyone in the parade.
Brooks was freed on $1,000 bail just two days before the deadly event, which has drawn scrutiny and renewed calls for giving judges more power to set higher bails.
Brooks was arrested and charged earlier this month after a woman told police he intentionally ran her “over with his vehicle” in the parking lot of a gas station after he followed her there following a fight, according to a criminal complaint.
The $1,000 bail recommended by prosecutors and accepted by the court commissioner in the case was called “inappropriately low” by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office in a Monday statement.
The bail also was not consistent with the office’s approach to cases “involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail,” the statement read.
Brooks has been charged with crimes 10 times since 1999, including three times in less than two years with recklessly endangering the safety of others. Most recently, Brooks was charged in a domestic abuse incident Nov. 5 for which he was also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer.
The cold and windy candlelight vigil Monday night included clergy reciting prayers for those mourning while volunteers handed out candles and hot chocolate.
“We walk that street every day, it’s home, and it just hits really close to home,” said Kim Mischalouski, a Waukesha resident for 30 years. “Tonight was to help me kind of feel better. It’s not there yet, but it’s coming and I was hoping there was going to be something like this.”
Contributing: Bill Glauber, Sophie Carson, Sarah Volpenhein, Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press