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After shocking Waukesha Christmas parade attack, Wis. Catholics grieve and pray

Catholics and others were injured, and at least four people killed, when a car drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Nov. 21. / Getty Images

Waukesha, Wisconsin, Nov 22, 2021 / 16:51 pm (CNA).

Catholics in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha have responded with grief, prayer, and solidarity after an SUV drove into marchers in the city’s Christmas parade. Five people were killed, and among the nearly 50 injured are a Catholic priest, multiple parishioners, and Catholic schoolchildren.

“As the shepherd of the Catholic community of southeastern Wisconsin, I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those who have been affected by this senseless act,” said Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee said in a video message on Monday. “When confronted with the shock and the grief encountered by our brothers and sisters in Waukesha, it is now important for us to turn to our faith which offers us God’s loving presence and consolation.”

Like other schools in the city, Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha cancelled Monday classes. The high school, which had a contingent marching in the parade, held a prayer service at 12:30 p.m.

St. William Church in Waukesha scheduled a bilingual prayer service at 6 p.m. Central Time Monday and said it would be streamed live on its Facebook page and YouTube.

“Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,” the archbishop continued in the video. “Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”

“I know that people of every faith and tradition will call their communities together and offer to God their sense of confidence in his ability to guide us through this difficult period and offer hope and healing,” said Listecki. “God bless you.”

A red SUV barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of Waukesha just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21. Videos posted on social media showed a dark SUV racing down the parade route past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck, with police in pursuit.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team, and a marching band were also struck by the vehicle, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Several of the dead were part of the dancing grandmothers’ group, while another was a Citizen Bank employee walking with a float. 

The youngest to die was 52, while the oldest was 81. Those hospitalized for their injuries included at least 18 children.

Also marching in the parade were individuals and institutions of the local Catholic community.

Waukesha has four Catholic parishes. In the wake of the incident, the city’s parishes provided social media livestreams of the rosary and Eucharistic adoration.  

Authorities named Darrell Brooks Jr. as the suspected driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Among other recommended charges, he could face five charges of first-degree intentional homicide, each of which has a sentence of mandatory life in prison.

Brooks, 39, was the subject of an ongoing domestic violence case. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said Nov. 22 that prosecutors had recommended an “inappropriately low” bail in this case and it is investigating the recommendation.

In the last two years Brooks has faced three charges of recklessly endangering others’ safety. He jumped bail for a July 2020 incident for allegedly firing a handgun during an argument.

Most recently, in early November, he allegedly ran over a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station. She was hospitalized for her injuries. Brooks was free on $1,000 bail.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Waukesha police chief confirmed that Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove onto the parade route. There was an unconfirmed report that a knife was involved. Officials said on Monday that there was no police pursuit related to that incident, CNN reports.

Brooks has a significant record of other criminal convictions.

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