Darrell Brooks to be sentenced in deadly Christmas parade attack

(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — Darrell Brooks is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for driving his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, last year, killing six people and injuring dozens more.

Wednesday’s sentencing comes after dozens of victims of the attack confronted Brooks in angry, emotional statements on Tuesday.

Prior to Judge Jennifer Dorow’s sentencing, several people spoke on Brooks’ behalf in Waukesha County court on Wednesday over Zoom, starting with his mother, Dawn Brooks.

“Jail is not the only answer,” she told the court. “Help, treatment, hospitalization and medication — it plays a big role in preventing this, where we are today, if it would have been offered sooner.”

She also read the Maya Angelou poem “Caged Bird.”

“Everyone who suffers from mental illness is caged. All they want is to be free of their illness and become mentally well,” she said, adding that she believes society has an obligation to help others through treatment and medication.

Brooks’ grandmother, Mary Edwards, told the court that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 12.

“It was that disorder that caused him to drive through that crowd,” she said. “It is my prayer that he will be treated for this illness.”

A jury found Brooks, 40, guilty last month on all 76 counts, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, for barreling his SUV into a Christmas parade on Nov. 21, 2021.

Those killed were Tamara Durand, 52; Wilhelm Hospel, 81; Jane Kulich, 52; Leanna Owen, 71; Virginia Sorenson, 79; and Jackson Sparks, 8.

Addressing the court on Tuesday during the first day of the sentencing, survivors detailed how Brooks robbed them of their sense of personal safety, trust and peace and affected them physically and mentally. Parents recalled frantically searching for their children, and the injuries they endured in the attack. Family members honored the memory of those who were killed. Many who addressed the court asked for the maximum sentence possible.

Several of those who spoke in court were children who recounted the horror and long-lasting impact of that day.

“I know that I lost a piece of myself that day, and I’m still trying to find it,” one young victim who was dancing in the parade when the attack occurred told the court on Tuesday.

Another dancer who was injured in the parade spoke of being scared of cars at the bus stop.

“It is getting closer and closer to Nov. 21 and I don’t think I’m ready for this day to come,” the 12-year-old victim told the court on Tuesday. “On this day each year, I and many others will think of how a peaceful event that has been a tradition in Waukesha for over 50 years, and brought smiles and laughter to everyone, turned into tragedy.”

The sentencing hearing was briefly paused Tuesday morning after an unknown person threatened a mass shooting at the Waukesha County Courthouse, authorities said. The threat is under investigation and security at the courthouse was increased, the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office said.

Brooks was also briefly removed from the courtroom on Tuesday for what Dorow described as his continued “defiant behavior,” which had included shouting at and interrupting the judge and prosecutors.

Brooks initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease but withdrew the plea in September. He dismissed his public defenders during the trial and went on to represent himself.

Prior to the start of the trial, Brooks’ mother had written to the judge in September asking that he not be allowed to represent himself in court because “he is not stable mentally enough,” Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN reported at the time.

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