Darrell Brooks, the man who intentionally drove his vehicle through a Christmas parade in Wisconsin, fatally striking six people and injuring dozens more, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole.
“Frankly, Mr. Brooks, no one is safe from you,” Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow said while reading the sentence. “This community can only be safe if you are behind bars for the rest of your life.”
Dorow handed down six consecutive life sentences, one for each of the six people killed. She also gave Brooks the maximum sentence on all 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with the use of a dangerous weapon, one count for each person injured in the attack.
While reading the sentences, Dorow mentioned every single victim by name.
“Frankly, you deserve it,” the judge told Brooks after finishing the sentence. “I know it’s symbolic, but it needs to hold you accountable in a very real and tangible way.”
The sentence came after the court heard statements from victims, witnesses, several of Brooks’ family members and Brooks himself.
More than three dozen victims and victim representatives delivered remarks — all of them recalling the horrific moment Brooks’ red SUV ripped through holiday celebrations in Waukesha almost one year ago — as part of the victim statement portion of the sentencing hearing, which kicked off on Tuesday.
The proceedings were briefly put on hold for what Nicholas Wenzel of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department called a “minor disruption,” CNN reported. An unknown individual phoned the county communications center and threatened a mass shooting, triggering an hour-long recess.
Dawn Woods, Brooks’ mother, was the first to speak on Wednesday. She touched on mental illness, describing it as the “dirty little secret in families that they don’t want to talk about,” Fox 5 reported. She went on to read Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings,” with the hope it would provide inspiration to her son.
“To the families who lost loved ones and those who suffered injuries, I know their pain,” Woods concluded. “And I pray that the Lord will continue to comfort and heal each of them.”
Hundreds of people were milling about downtown Waukesha when Brooks plowed his vehicle into the parade route, running down participants and viewers alike. Six people were fatally struck, three of them from a group of senior entertainers called “Dancing Grannies,” and even more were injured.
Those killed were identified as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; Wilhelm Hospel, 81, and Jackson Sparks, 8, who was walking in the parade with his baseball team. His mother, Sheri, told the court Tuesday that her family is “forever changed, hurt, angry, traumatized and broken.”
“Do you have any idea how gut wrenching it is to explain to your 12-year-old son that his little brother isn’t going to make it?” Sparks said in her impact statement, according to the Milwaukee Journal. Jackson was “violently ripped from their lives,” she added.
Her comment brought Judge Dorow and others in the courtroom to tears.
Brooks in October was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of the six people killed during his rampage. The 40-year-old from Milwaukee was further convicted of 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with the use of a dangerous weapon, six counts of fatal hit-and-run, two counts of felony bail jumping and one count of misdemeanor domestic battery.
The verdict was delivered following a chaotic three-week trial, during which Brooks opted to represent himself. Brooks a two-hour rambling speech ahead of the sentencing, in which he apologized for the first time to victims and families.
“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,” he said.
With News Wire Services
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