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Police seek motive after driver plows through Wisconsin Christmas parade

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A small child takes part in a candle light vigil in downtown Waukesha, Wis., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 after an SUV plowed into a Sunday Christmas parade ...

A small child takes part in a candle light vigil in downtown Waukesha, Wis., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 after an SUV plowed into a Sunday Christmas parade ...

WAUKESHA, Wis., (Reuters) - Authorities on Monday were investigating what led a suspect to drive a speeding SUV into dozens of people at a Christmas parade in Wisconsin, killing five, as reports emerged that he may have been fleeing an earlier crime scene.

On the morning after Sunday's carnage, a pink hat, a lone shoe and candy lay strewn across the main thoroughfare in Waukesha, roughly 20 miles (32 km) west of Milwaukee. About 40 people were injured.

Dozens of orange evidence circles were painted on the street and most shops were closed in the city's downtown district. A woman tied a bouquet of flowers to a street post as police officers blocked intersections along the main road.

The suspect appeared to be fleeing another incident when the vehicle sped through the parade route https://tmsnrt.rs/3CEuGgC, CNN reported on Monday, citing multiple law enforcement sources. Although the investigation was in its early stages, authorities have found no connection to terrorism, the sources told the network.

On Sunday, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson told reporters that one person was in custody and they found the red sport utility vehicle seen plowing into pedestrians. The FBI is assisting local police in their investigation.

Several media reports, citing law enforcement sources, identified the person in custody as Darrell Brooks, 39. Reuters could not immediately confirm the suspect's identity.

A search of online court records showed a recent open case involving a person named Darrell Brooks, with a birth date that would make him 39 years old. According to the court documents, he is charged with restricting or obstructing an officer, bail jumping and battery. A $1,000 cash bond was posted earlier this month, the records show.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office released a statement on Monday detailing the pending charges against Brooks and said it was conducting an internal review of the decision involving Brook's bail recommendation.

"The state's bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks," read the statement, which made no reference of the parade incident.

'STILL TOTALLY SHOCKED'

A video posted online on Sunday showed a red sport utility vehicle racing alongside and into the parade, appearing to run over more than a dozen people before crowds ran from sidewalks to help.

An officer fired shots at the vehicle in an attempt to stop the carnage, Thompson said. Another video on social media appeared to show police firing on the vehicle as it crashed through street barriers. Police did not believe shots had been fired from the vehicle, Thompson added, contrary to earlier reports.

"It was terrifying," said Waukesha resident Brian Hoffman, 33, who was present as the vehicle rammed through parade attendees.

"I saw children who were ran over," Hoffman said sitting on a stoop near the scene that was still blocked off by police. "I am still totally shocked."

The Children's Wisconsin hospital officials said at a briefing they treated 18 children, including six who remained in critical condition and three in serious condition on Monday. The rest were in fair condition or released. The hospital made no mention of any fatalities.

Among the victims were members of a group of "Dancing Grannies," according to a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.

"Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed.....(with the) joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue....(that) held us together," read the statement https://www.facebook.com/Milwaukeedancingrannies posted on the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies Facebook page. "Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time, as more information and updates become available it will be posted."

Schools will remain closed on Monday and additional counselors will be available for students, the district superintendent of schools said. Waukesha authorities said a fund for the affected families https://wccf.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create?funit_id=3559 had been set up.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the "tragic situation" and federal officials were offering assistance.

In 2015, four people were killed and 46 injured in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when a woman drove into a crowd watching the homecoming parade for a football team.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien and Cheney Orr in Waukesha, Wisconsin; Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco; Peter Szekely in New York; Mark Hosenball, Eric Beech, Katharine Jackson, David Morgan and Phil Stewart in Washington; and Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Writing by Kevin Liffey and Maria Caspani; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)