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Waukesha Parade Survivors Recall ‘Horrible Sound of the Car Hitting Bodies’ During Victim Impact Statements Against Darrell Brooks

A photo shows Darrell Brooks.

Darrell Brooks appeared to pray, but at times applauded, during victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing on Tues., Nov. 15, 2022. (Image via the Law&Crime Channel.)

A collection of surviving victims from — and the relatives of those who died during — the Nov. 21, 2021 attack on Waukesha, Wisconsin’s Christmas parade spoke out against convicted murderer Darrell Brooks.

Many of the parents described looking into the eyes of dead, gravely wounded, or severely shocked children as they laid in the street or sought comfort in the aftermath of the attack. Many described the screams and the sounds of Brooks’ maroon sport utility vehicle hitting human bodies — “like when you bump into a construction barrel on the freeway,” one said. Several said the initial chaos led to screams and statements that shots had been fired.

Word that an active shooter was on the loose turned out not to be true, but the damage inflicted when Brooks careened his SUV into the nascent festivities was just as damaging. Prosecutors said there “could have been thousands” of people who wished to address the Court but that in-person victim impact statements would be provided on Tuesday only by individuals “directly” connected to the victims.

The hearing started slowly. Brooks, who represented himself at trial and displayed the usual lack of legal acumen necessary, again claimed in his usual and legally inaccurate fashion that the court didn’t have jurisdiction over him. He fumbled with questions of whether or not some of his own supporters would be able to speak via Zoom or in person prior to his sentencing.

A jury convicted Brooks of more than 70 counts, including multiple counts of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and hit-and-run involving death.  Six died in the attack.

Before victim impact statements commenced, Judge Jennifer Dorow ordered restitution of more than $47,000 to the Waukesha School District and $124,220.65 to a Wisconsin Department of Justice crime victim compensation fund.

Judge Dorow said she would issue a formal sentence on Wednesday — the second day of the hearing — after taking the evening to consider the words of the many people who spoke.

What follows below is a non-exhaustive collection of some of the comments offered on the record.

Lori Lochen, who was walking with her Catholic church family, said many of those wounded, killed, or scarred “were celebrating the joy of the season, the birth of Jesus, when you [Brooks] made your decision to drive through the parade route.”

“It truly amazes me that you deny your accountability through the damage and hurt that you have willfully caused,” she continued. “I turned around, and it was only seconds before you hit me square on. I clearly remember feeling the impact. The searing pain of that blow is as clear to me today as it was a year ago.”

Bill Mitchell, who identified himself as the man listed in court documents as victim ZZ, described being struck and injured by Brooks.

“I flew over the hood and ended up on the ground with eight broken ribs, a bruised lung, a fractured hand, finger, and my face was slashed open in several places requiring stitches,” Mitchell said.

He continued by describing the following three nights in a local intensive care unit. His wife, he said, was home recovering from a previous surgery of her own and couldn’t easily care for him. The upshot, he described, was a “ripple effect” that upended the routines of many caregivers.

“I do hope Mr. Brooks will use the Bible for more than a courtroom prop,” Mitchell said — this time referencing Brooks’ frequent and visible courtroom demeanor.

Mitchell later encouraged Brooks to read Galatians 6:7. Mitchell didn’t read it out loud, but the passage says this: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Brooks sat at the defense table and prayed as the statements were read. He softly applauded after Mitchell spoke. Brooks repeated that behavior several times throughout the day.

Jason Pechloff accused Brooks of stealing the community’s innocence. He graphically described his own bleeding and said he almost lost his foot. He said children cry and hide when they see red or maroon SUVs like the one Brooks was convicted of driving into the parade.

Several subsequent witnesses asked for Brooks to receive the maximum sentence under law: life without parole.

Jeff Rogers spoke as a father of victims U and V and as the president of a local sporting organization.

He said Brooks exhibited “zero remorse, sympathy, or acknowledgement.”

“All he had to do is stop the vehicle,” Rogers said. “He needs to be locked up for the rest of his life.”

Rogers said he was “inches away” from losing thee of his four children.

“The trial has been dragged out and literally we were pulled back through to relive everything all because this person wouldn’t admit it like a man and take what was coming to him,” the father continued.

Brooks rolled his eyes at the final comment — another behavior he repeated as the proceeding rolled into the afternoon hours.

A photo shows Darrell Brooks.

Darrell Brooks rolled his eyes during victim impact statements. (Image via the Law&Crime Channel.)

Jessica Gonzalez described finding her children unharmed after the terror of searching for them.

“I still see his eyes without closing mine,” Gonzalez said of a child who was gravely wounded.

“What does it feel like to attend a funeral of a child your age?” she asked rhetorically “I hate that my kids know.”

Her son told her it was “weird having one less teammate” for local athletic contests, she said.

“When he suggested he could have hit more, he was wrong,” Gonzalez said of Brooks.  “He hit everyone.”

“You will have no one in a cell where you belong for the rest of your life,” said another parent during the day-long hearing.

Sheri Sparks, whose son Jackson Sparks, 8, died in the attack, drew tears from prosecutors and from the judge. Her other son, Tucker Sparks, was injured.

“I will never, ever forget the horrible sound of the car hitting bodies and the thud of bodies landing on the ground,” Sparks said.

A local store owner removed a door from its hinges to immobilize Tucker Sparks due to his injuries so he could be taken inside after remaining on the cold ground for an hour. First responders had simply run out of spine boards.

Tucker suffers from mental and emotional issues, his mother said, including survivor’s guilt and PTSD.

“I miss Jackson every second of every single day,” his mother continued. “I feel gutted and broken. It hurts to breathe sometimes. It hurts to live without him here.”

Other children were also injured in the attack.

Some of the victims, whose names and identities remain sealed for privacy reasons, were grouped by single, double, or triple letters; the rationale for the groupings was not immediately clear from the context of the sentencing hearing.

A boy, victim LLL, said he was “mostly” speaking on behalf of his brother, victim KKK.

“I feel his pain, because when I was hit, I broke down in tears, too,” the child said.

“My whole body was paralyzed with fear,” he continued.

Someone — presumably a court officer — read a statement by victim KKK. The bottom of the image contained a depiction of children seeking candy along the route and showed the “car that hit me.”

A photo shows a child's depiction of the Waukesha parade attack.

A child victim of the Waukesha parade attack drew a picture of what happened as part of a victim impact statement.

The proceedings stopped for well more than an hour due to what authorities called a threat to the courthouse, but the judge said the local sheriff assured her that the building was secure and that the sentencing hearing would continue. Victim impact statements continued after that unplanned break.

A written statement by the mother of KKK and LLL, also read by a court staffer, said the sight of a red or maroon SUV driving toward her these days was re-traumatizing.

Brooks interrupted the proceeding to ask the judge whether victim KKK was eight or nine years old. The judge said she couldn’t answer that question but could only confirm that the statement being read was from victim KKK’s mother.

Kelly Grabow, the mother of another injured girl, criticized Brooks for representing himself at trial — an act which she said re-victimized her.

“I can tell you, sitting on the stand that day, reliving the horrific events, having him look in my direction, brought up so many memories and emotions of that night,” Grabow said. “Hearing his voice made me cringe in disgust and anger.”

Grabow said her daughter is now feared with anger and hate — not love and joy.

Another mother said her child recalled “tasting blood” and that his “stomach hurt.” A stranger, whom she called a “hero,” providing what comfort he could by sitting with her son while her son was “vomiting blood.”

Sasha Catalan-Castillo, a student who was injured, said she may choose to attend law school to ensure justice for the community after enduring the incident. She said she struggled to feel her own emotions after dealing with the trauma inflicted by Brooks.

Another written statement described how Tyson Tiegs, who witnessed his older brother Erick Tiegs being hit by Brooks, reacted to what happened:

He even took off his jacket to help keep his brother warm while he laid in the middle of the street.  He then had to call his mother and try to explain what had happened.  As he stood next to his brother, he saw blood coming out of his ear, nose, and mouth, and his leg that was pointing backwards.  He would just keep telling Eric he would be fine and that mom was on her way.  He stayed with him until Eric was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

One victim impact statement said Brooks deserved the death penalty. Wisconsin does not countenance that punishment, the statement indicated, so the speaker wished the following: “I can only hope they lock you away some place so deep the rats chew on your fingers at night. As for me, this will never be over until the day I’m pissing on your grave. I think it would be fair to say that for your crimes, even God hates you.”

At one point, Brooks argued with the judge — engaging in behavior not dissimilar to that exhibited throughout the trial. When a man in the gallery yelled back at him, the judge ordered that man removed.

District Attorney Sue Opper described Brooks’ criminal record — “a pattern of engaging in violence” — and said many of the defenseless victims didn’t even know a car was barreling down upon them.

Elsehwere, Opper called Brooks a “narcissistic coward” who “ran like a scared little chicken from this parade — trying to slither away in the dark of night — but only to stop long enough to take advantage to good citizens that would help him.”

“He calls and lies to his mom” about an Uber, Opper continued, and said Brooks lied repeatedly to police officers.

“He takes advantage of everyone,” Opper said. “He’s extremely manipulative. He absolutely thinks he’s in control of everything, when in fact, as he sits here in custody, he’s in control of nothing execept his own behavior.”

Brooks interrupted the prosecutor and said he refused to be disrespected. The judge told him to be quiet. Brooks asked if he could say the same thing — presumably Wednesday, when the proceeding continues.

Additional clips from the emotional hearing are below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.