Here is what we know about Darrell E. Brooks Jr., the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas parade incident

Elliot Hughes Ashley Luthern
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Waukesha police identified Darrell E. Brooks Jr. as the suspect in the Christmas parade incident that killed six people and injured more than 60 others.

Brooks, 40, is facing six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 71 other charges in the attack. His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 3, 2022. 

More:Darrell Brooks Jr. will represent himself at the upcoming Waukesha Christmas Parade trial, judge rules

Here is what we know about him:

Darrell E. Brooks Jr., a 39-year-old from Milwaukee, has been identified as the suspected driver of the vehicle that plowed into the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Sunday.

Background on Darrell Brooks in Milwaukee

Brooks lived in the Rufus King neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side. He has family in Waukesha County.

A Wisconsin woman who had a child with Brooks described him as an absent father who is “not involved in our lives in any capacity.”

Neighbors said they frequently saw Brooks and his car parked outside his home but rarely interacted with him beyond a quick hello.

What we know about Darrell Brooks' early life

In a 2007 letter to a Nevada judge, Brooks described growing up in Milwaukee without a father and being raised by his mother, who he said had strong Christian faith. Some of his other family members struggled with substance abuse, he wrote.

He said he had avoided the "street life," but many of his friends never made it past 17, either dying or being imprisoned.

Brooks described having mental health problems starting at age 11 after his grandmother died.

"I was sent to a mental health hospital at 12, and was told I was bipolar, manic depressive and severely depressed," he wrote. "I attempted suicide numerous times after my grandma died, and I still get suicidal to this day. I've been taking medication since 12. My mom thinks I need to be put back in a hospital an (sic) re-evaluated."

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In a letter released after the parade attack, Brooks' mother also cited his mental health problems, saying he had done well with treatment when he was young.

"When mental illness is not properly treated the person becomes sicker and sicker. It doesn't go away once a person becomes an adult," she wrote. "We are not making excuses but we believe what has happened is because he was not given the help and resources he needed."

What preceded the Waukesha Christma Parade attack

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove into the parade route.

Thompson said a police chase did not precede the car plowing into a crowd of paradegoers and there was no sign the event was an act of domestic terrorism.

Darrell Brooks was accused of running someone over with his car weeks before the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack

Brooks’ prior criminal history includes two instances where someone was run over, or thought they were about to be, while Brooks was behind the wheel.

According to court records:

In 2011, Brooks was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt in Milwaukee. He initially gave police a false name, and when an officer asked him again to identify himself, Brooks turned on his vehicle and put it in drive.

The officer feared Brooks was going to run him over, so he jumped in the vehicle with Brooks and wrestled for control of the car as it moved. Eventually, the officer was able to stop the car and remove the keys, but Brooks ran off.

He was later found hiding in a children’s playhouse. Police used pepper spray and a Taser on him twice while trying to restrain him.

Brooks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in that case.

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Less than three weeks before the Waukesha incident, on Nov. 2, Brooks visited a woman who was staying at an American Inn in Milwaukee. He knocked on the door while yelling and using profanity.

The woman answered and tried moving past Brooks, but he snatched her phone and drove off with it.

Later, when the woman was walking to a gas station in the 7300 block of West Capitol Drive, Brooks rolled up near her and demanded she get in the car. She refused and he punched her in the face.

The woman then began walking away, but Brooks ran her over with his car in the parking lot of the gas station. She was hospitalized for her injuries.

Brooks was charged with two felonies, including second-degree recklessly endangering safety, and three misdemeanors, including battery and disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments.

Brooks posted a $1,000 cash bail and was released Nov. 16, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. The bail, which was recommended by prosecutors, was called “inappropriately low” given the nature of the charges, according to a statement from the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.

When was Darrell Brooks last in custody before the Waukesha Christmas Parade?

Brooks' mother posted the $1,000 bail on Nov. 11. Brooks was released from Milwaukee County Jail on Nov. 16.

From there, he was immediately taken into the custody of the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, where he had a hold in a child-support paternity case, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office.

He was booked in Waukesha County and released that same day, Nov. 16, the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department confirmed.

Darrell Brooks has a lengthy criminal history

Since 1999, Brooks has been charged with 10 crimes, beginning with a felony count of inflicting substantial bodily harm against another person. Brooks was 17 at the time and pleaded guilty.

In 2012, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony counts of possession of THC, along with a count of bail jumping, in separate cases.

In July 2020, Brooks was charged with two felony counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and felony bail jumping.

According to the criminal complaint, Brooks got into a physical fight with his nephew at the home where Brooks stayed. Afterward, the nephew climbed into his car with a friend of his to leave, but Brooks fired a handgun toward the car.

Brooks was arrested the next day and police located a gun that was reported stolen. His bail was reduced from $10,000 to $7,500, according to online court records.

With Brooks in custody, prosecutors were prepared to go forward with his jury trial in February. But because another jury trial was ongoing in the same court, the case was postponed.

Brooks’ bail was then dropped to $500 after hearing arguments from Brooks’ attorney, online records show. He posted that bail Feb. 21.

Records show he also is a registered sex offender in Nevada after he was convicted of statutory sexual seduction in November 2006, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

More:How police, prosecutors and courts across three states failed to hold Darrell Brooks accountable

Has Darrell Brooks' mental health history come up in court?

In his previous criminal cases, Brooks did not raise legal issues of competency or pursue an insanity defense.

In the parade case, Brooks did try to change his not-guilty plea to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect — commonly known as an insanity defense. He withdrew that defense in the weeks before the trial started, suggesting court-ordered psychiatric evaluations did not support his claim.

Contact Elliot Hughes at or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.