Police and emergency personnel work on a crime scene on Nov. 21, 2021 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. More than 20 people were injured Sunday when an SUV drove down a holiday parade route in downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin, police said.
Jim Vondruska | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A joyous Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin turned into a scene of deadly horror when a red SUV plowed into a crowd on the city’s Main Street late Sunday.
At least five people were killed and more than 40 others were injured, according to officials in the suburban Milwaukee city. Those numbers may change as new information comes to light, they said.
The exact circumstances surrounding the incident and what may have motivated it were not yet clear.
Four senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that a person of interest who may have a significant criminal history was being questioned overnight, with investigators probing the possibility that whoever was behind the wheel had been fleeing an earlier incident involving a knife fight. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson confirmed at a news conference Sunday evening that a person of interest had been taken into custody,
Five sources in a position to be briefed on the incident told NBC News that at this early stage of the investigation there was no connection to any sort of terrorism and no indication that it was in retaliation for the not guilty verdict on Friday in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
An FBI spokesperson said that the bureau was aware of the event but that local authorities would lead the inquiry.
Video from the scene showed a red SUV speeding down the parade route, then barreling into the crowd while a band was playing.
The vehicle went through barricades set up for the parade before striking people, Thompson said.
An officer opened fire at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, said Thompson, who added that police were no longer searching for the vehicle.
On Sunday afternoon, spectators gathered along the street in downtown Waukesha to watch a procession of floats, classic cars and children dancing. Right before the incident, video from the scene showed spectators both standing and sitting in chairs, watching a marching band perform.
When the vehicle plowed into the crowd, spectators began to franticly scream. In the minutes after it happened, people cleared the area.
Angelito Tenorio, a candidate for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he just finished marching in the parade with the Waukesha County Democratic Party when the vehicle sped down the route.
“People [were] running away from the scene, leaving their belongings behind, looking for their kids, family friends,” he told MSNBC. “It looked like there were folks on the ground lying who may have been struck by the vehicle.”
Police and emergency personnel work on a crime scene on November 21, 2021 in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Jim Vondruska | Getty Images
Scott Greger, a Waukesha resident, said he witnessed the vehicle strike someone, continue, and then hit a float.
“The red SUV came barreling down the street — very, very high rate of speed, and hit a pedestrian,” he said live on MSNBC. “
He said the SUV’s presence was preceded by police sirens in the area.
Greger described the route as “full” with marchers and spectators. The event in suburban Milwaukee, billed as the Waukesha’s 58th annual Christmas Parade, had been canceled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
Waukesha resident Jesus Ochoa, who attended the event with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, described how the parade continued marching in the moments just after the incident.
“It carried on because no one realized yet because the SUV, in the spot where we were, it didn’t pass in the middle of the street, but it passed on a side,” he told Reuters.
Area hospitals reported treating at least 28 people from the parade, including 15 who were taken to Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee and 13 at Aurora Medical Center in Summit. Aurora said in a statement that three of those patients were in critical condition.
At least one Catholic priest, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children, were injured, according to Sandra Peterson, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Roads in the area of the incident would remain closed, as would businesses, the city said on Facebook. Classes were canceled for Waukesha public schools on Monday.
“I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wrote on Facebook Sunday evening.
The White House is monitoring the situation, according to a statement.