WAUKESHA, Wis. – A judge on Wednesday sentenced the man who drove an SUV through a crowd gathered for the 2021 Christmas parade in Waukesha, killing six people and injuring dozens more, to six consecutive life sentences.
Jurors found Darrell Brooks guilty of 76 charges last month, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
Update 6:49 p.m. EST Nov. 16: Darrell Brooks was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences without chance of parole.
Brooks was convicted last month of killing six people and injuring more than 60 others when he drove his SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade route last year.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow also imposed an additional 762.5 years for the injuries suffered by others.
“The seriousness of this offense can be summed up in one word,” Dorow said. “And that is ‘attack.’”
“You used that vehicle as a battering ram,” Dorow said after passing the sentences.
A jury convicted Brooks, 40, of 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety, WTMJ-TV reported. Each homicide count carries a mandatory life sentence in Wisconsin, while each endangerment count carries a maximum sentence of 17.5 years.
The sentencing ended an emotional and contentious day in court, with proceedings interrupted briefly after authorities received a telephone call from an unknown person who threatened a mass shooting inside the courthouse, WTMJ reported. Later in the afternoon, Dorow called for a recess after Brooks interrupted her several times and refused to stop speaking.
When Brooks was returned to the courtroom and began arguing with the judge again, Dorow returned him to another room and called for a recess at 5 p.m. CST.
Earlier, the judge became emotional after talking about her reaction when viewing images during the trial.
“Those are images that frankly, kept me up at night,” Dorow said. “He treated them like big, old speedbumps,” Durow said.
Update 4:38 p.m. EST Nov. 16: As Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow was summarizing the case, Brooks interrupted her several times.
When Dorow admonished Brooks to remain silent and threatened to remove him from the courtroom, he responded, “Remove me, then.”
Brooks then called for a recess.
After the recess, Brooks was placed in another room. Brooks’ microphone was muted when he refused to stop talking.
“He had no intention of stopping his tirade,” Dorow said.
Earlier, Dorow spoke about Brooks’ history of mental health before announcing his sentence, adding that she had read through four books about forensic psychiatry.
“It is very clear that Mr. Brooks knew the difference between right and wrong,” Dorow said.
Perhaps the one question that cannot be answered is ‘Why?’” Dorow told Brooks.
Update 3:40 p.m. EST Nov. 16: When asked whether he had any sentencing recommendations on his behalf, Brooks told Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow, “I just want to be helped.”
Brooks spoke for more than two hours as part of the second day of his sentencing hearing on Wednesday. He spoke about his mental health struggles, his childhood and his reaction to the victim impact statements shared in court on Tuesday.
“I feel like I should be able to go somewhere where I can be helped, where I can be properly evaluated, where I can be properly medicated,” Brooks said. “If that (treatment) is (over) an extended period of a long, long time, at least I know that I’m getting what I need. Not what I want, what I need.”
Victims who spoke in court recommended that Dorow sentence Brooks to the maximum allowable under law, life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Update 1:55 p.m. EST Nov. 16: Brooks said he was sorry Wednesday as he addressed the court ahead of his sentencing.
To victims and those affected by the tragedy on Nov. 21, 2021, he said, “I want you to know that not only am I sorry for what happened, I’m sorry that you could not see what’s truly in my heart; that you cannot see the remorse that I have; that you cannot listen to all the phone calls that I’ve made to my family; that you cannot hear all the prayers I’ve said in my cell; that you cannot count all the tears that I’ve dropped in this year.”
He is expected to be sentenced later Wednesday.
Original report: On Tuesday, dozens of victims appeared in court to give impact statements. They included Sheri Sparks, the mother of 8-year-old Jackson Sparks.
Jackson was the youngest victim killed during the Waukesha Christmas parade. He and his brother, 12-year-old Tucker Sparks, were walking with their baseball team in the parade when they were struck by Brooks on Nov. 21, 2021.
Sheri Sparks described finding Jackson in the arms of a police officer who was running to get him medical attention. She said her husband was behind them and told her that Tucker had been hit. She followed a trail made up of Jackson’s baseball hat, Tucker’s hat and Jackson’s shoe to find her elder son, who was semiconscious lying on the road and covered in a blanket.
The boys, who both had traumatic head and brain injuries, were taken to a hospital and treated in rooms near one another. Jackson later died of his injuries.
“Do you have any idea how gut-wrenching it is to have to explain to your 12-year-old son that his little brother isn’t going to make it, his injuries were too extensive for his little body to come back from, and that he won’t be coming home with us ever again?” Sheri Sparks said Tuesday.
She said that her elder son continues to deal with memory issues and trouble with his brain-processing speed because of his injuries. He suffers from survivor’s guilt, PTSD, anxiety and headaches.
“We came so close to losing both of them that day,” she said. “I miss Jackson every second of every single day. I feel gutted and broken. It hurts to breathe sometimes. It hurts to live without him here. My mama’s soul aches for him. I am emotionally and mentally exhausted. The pain I carry with me every day feels so heavy, yet I have to push forward and still be here to help Tucker heal, move forward and find our new normal.”
She and several other victims asked that Brooks be sentenced to the maximum allowed by law.
Thousands of people were gathered in downtown Waukesha on the afternoon of Nov. 21, 2021, to watch the city’s Christmas parade when Brooks drove an SUV through the crowd and into the parade procession. Officials said 62 people were injured.
In addition to Jackson, police identified the five other people slain in the attack as 81-year-old Wilhelm Hospel, 79-year-old Virginia Sorenson, 71-year-old LeAnna Owen, 52-year-old Tamara Durand and 52-year-old Jane Kulich.
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