Five days before allegedly driving his red Ford Escape into a Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Darrell E. Brooks Jr. was released from police custody after posting bail in another case in which he was accused of running his car over a woman.
John Kulich, whose wife, Jane, was one of the five people killed by Brooks, was outraged by the news. Jane Kulich, 52, had three children and three grandchildren.
According to court documents, Brooks’ criminal history dates back to 1999, when he was convicted of battery. Additional charges of battery, drug abuse, and resisting law enforcement officials have been added to his record since then.
He had two open cases before the parade. Brooks allegedly ran over his child’s mother with his red SUV on Nov. 2 and fired a gun after getting into a “physical fight” with his nephew in July 2020, according to criminal complaints.
According to the statement, the district attorney’s office has launched an internal investigation to determine how the bail amount was determined. A growing number of prosecutors and judges across the country have abandoned the cash bail system, which allows defendants to post money in exchange for their release from jail. Its detractors argue that this method of compelling those accused of wrongdoing to appear in court disadvantages the poor, who are more likely to lose their jobs, housing, and custody rights if they cannot afford bail and are detained.
Michele LaVigne, a former director of the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Public Defender Project, said that setting Brooks’ cash bail at $1,000 is not unusual, and that bail amounts can vary between jurisdictions and courtrooms. Brooks was arrested earlier this month, and officials weighing what bail to request probably considered the seriousness of the charges as well as the fact that he was already out on bail in the previous case and had continued to show up for court appearances, she said.
“The purpose of cash bail is not to deter further crime,” LaVigne stated.
Conservative policymakers, as well as critics of criminal justice reform policies, say tragedies like Sunday’s are avoidable, pointing to what they see as insufficient efforts on the part of local law enforcement authorities to keep people like Brooks in check who have violent criminal convictions. In the coming days, every aspect of Sunday’s incident — and the moments before it — will be scrutinized to determine what went wrong.
Brooks, according to police, was fleeing a knife fight. However, questions remain about how he came to collide with the parade-goers, and whether the police could have done more to de-escalate the situation.
The speeding red Ford Escape mowed over white sawhorses set up as a barrier and initially sped down the street’s right lane, avoiding a little girl dancing in the street with her back to the parade. A police officer on foot sprinted after the vehicle a few moments after it passed. Then, with its engine roaring, a police car zipped by.
Down the block, at Main Street and Jasper Avenue, the scene turned deadly when the SUV swerved into the crowd, striking dozens of people. There were five fatalities and 48 injuries.
The Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office stated that the charges against Brooks, 39, would be filed on Tuesday afternoon. The FBI stated that it was assisting local authorities in their investigation. Every day, cops across the country engage in hundreds of high-speed car chases. Officials say that even low- or moderate-speed chases can pose a significant risk in congested areas, and that high-speed chases that endanger pedestrians are generally discouraged.