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Darrell Brooks Jr. had spent 10 days locked up in the Waukesha County Jail after allegedly plowing through a crowd of people during a Wisconsin Christmas parade, killing six and injuring dozens more.
As Brooks was held in jail, he was causing a whirlwind outside its walls. His name and mug shot were beamed to screens across the country. A court official called the accusations against him “shocking” and said his criminal record was “extraordinary.” One of his ex-girlfriends described what he allegedly did as “a monstrous act … completely irredeemable.”
On Wednesday, Brooks broke his silence.
“I just feel like I’m being [made out to be a] monster — demonized” and “dehumanized,” he told Fox News Digital.
Brooks, 39, is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, accused of driving an SUV through a throng of parade participants and spectators on Nov. 21 in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. The six people who were killed range in age from 8 to 81. Brooks is being held on a $5 million bond.
“I’ve not seen anything like this in my very long career,” Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said on Nov. 23 when he set the bail amount.
The state public defender’s office, which represents Brooks, did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Wednesday night.
Before the parade incident, Brooks was at the scene of an alleged altercation involving a knife but sped off in a red SUV when police got there, a law enforcement official has said. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said officers were not chasing Brooks when he entered the parade.
On Wednesday, the two Fox News Digital reporters who interviewed Brooks described him as soft-spoken, calm and lucid. He told them he was “very” close with his mother, Dawn Woods, but appeared not to know she had released a statement about her son earlier in the day.
In the roughly 670-word letter, Woods said she wasn’t making excuses but noted that her son has suffered from mental illness since he was young. As a child, he was treated with counseling and medication. But when he became an adult, she said Brooks lost the insurance he needed to pay for treatment. Since then, he’d cycled in and out of jail, she wrote.
“Mental illness is real and the system is broken it can and must be fixed NOW, not next year or with a new legislation NOW. So many like Darrell that have fallen through the cracks because of a broken system that no one cared to address, can get the help they so desperately need.”
When the reporters told Brooks of his mother’s letter, he put down the phone and got up from his chair, two jail guards shielding him from view. Even though the interview was over and the reporters couldn’t see Brooks, they could still hear what was happening on the other end.
It sounded like sobbing.
A little after 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 21, Waukesha’s annual Christmas parade was in full swing — hundreds of participants were moving along the parade route and thousands were watching, prosecutor Susan Opper wrote in a sworn criminal complaint.
Waukesha police detective Tom Casey was working traffic control for the parade when he heard a horn honking, the complaint said. When he checked out the noise, Casey saw people spreading apart and jumping out of the way of an oncoming red Ford Escape. The SUV was moving slowly at that point, so Casey pounded on the hood several times and yelled over and over for the driver to stop.
Advancing, the Ford Escape pushed Casey from the front of the SUV to the driver’s side, the complaint said. As the vehicle passed him, he pounded on the driver’s side window, again yelling for the driver to stop.
The driver, later identified as Brooks, didn’t stop, Opper wrote in the complaint.
Another officer working crowd control tried something similar as the SUV was going an estimated 25 mph, the complaint said. At about 4:38 p.m., Officer Bryce Butryn got in front of the Ford Escape, held up his hand and yelled, “Stop” multiple times. As he allegedly did with Casey, the driver kept going. But Butryn said he got a good look as the vehicle went by.
“Officer Butryn observed the driver looking straight ahead, directly at him, and it appeared he had no emotion on his face,” the complaint said.
At first, Butryn thought the driver was lost and trying to get out of the parade, the complaint said. But then, after the driver peeled out and abruptly swerved into the crowd, he came to a new conclusion, prosecutors said.
“At this point, it was clear … that this was an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible,” Butryn said, according to the complaint.
Butryn tried to catch the SUV, the complaint said. While running, he watched as it swerved side to side, “striking multiple people, and bodies and objects were flying.”
One witness later told a detective: “As I continued to watch the SUV, it continued to drive in a zigzag motion. It was like the SUV was trying to avoid vehicles, not people. There was no attempt made by the vehicle to stop, much less slow down.”
Brooks was arrested minutes later while on the porch of a nearby house, asking the owner to help him call someone for a ride.
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