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Man who killed 6 in Christmas parade gets life, no release

Man who killed 6 in Christmas parade gets life, no release


Man who killed 6 in Christmas parade gets life, no release

A judge sentenced a man who killed six people and injured many others when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee to life in prison with no chance of release Wednesday, rejecting arguments from him and his family that mental illness drove him to do it.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced 40-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr. on 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment.

Each homicide count carried a mandatory life sentence, and the only uncertainty Wednesday was whether Dorow would allow Brooks to serve any portion of those sentences on extended supervision in the community, the state’s current version of parole. She did not. Wisconsin doesn’t have the death penalty.

The gallery applauded as Dorow announced the life sentences. Moments later she sentenced him to 762 years in prison on the endangerment counts.

“Frankly, Mr. Brooks, no one is safe from you,” Dorow said. “This community can only be safe if you are behind bars for the rest of your life. ... You left a path of destruction, chaos, death, injury and panic as you drove seven or so blocks through the Christmas parade.”

Dorow had bailiffs move Brooks to another courtroom where he could participate via video after he became disruptive during her pre-sentencing remarks. He stood motionless in his jail garb and handcuffs as the judge announced the sentences.

Brooks victims demanded during a hearing Tuesday that Dorow give him the toughest sentence possible. Chris Owens, whose mother was among those killed, told Brooks: “All I ask is you rot, and you rot slow.”

Brooks drove his red Ford Escape through the parade in downtown Waukesha on Nov. 21, 2021, after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching with his baseball team, and three members of a group known as the Dancing Grannies. Scores of others were injured.

On Wednesday, before the judge handed down her sentence, Brooks told the court that he suffered from mental illness since he was young and didn’t plan to drive into the parade route. He also offered his first apology to the dozens of people who were hurt or lost loved ones during the incident.

Dorow said before she handed down the sentences that she doesn't believe Brooks is mentally ill, pointing out that four psychologists who evaluated him earlier this year found that he suffers from an anti-social personality disorder but not a mental illness.

“It is my opinion that mental health issues did not cause him to do what he did on Nov. 21, 2021, and frankly didn't play a role," the judge said Wednesday. “It is very clear to me that he understands the difference between right and wrong and he simply chooses to ignore his conscience. He is fueled by anger and rage.”

Dorow spent most of Tuesday listening to dozens of victims demand Brooks get the maximum possible sentence. One by one they described frantically searching for their children in the immediate aftermath, the pain their children have endured as they still struggle to recover from their injuries and the emptiness they feel as they cope with the loss of their dead loved ones.

District Attorney Susan Opper asked Dorow on Tuesday to make the sentences consecutive so they stack up “just as he stacked victims up as he drove down the road,” with no chance of release on extended supervision.