Multiple law enforcement sources in Waukesha, Wis. confirmed that the person of interest who was arrested Sunday on suspicion of killing five people and injuring more than 40 others during the city’s Christmas parade Sunday afternoon had just been released on bond in a domestic abuse case days earlier.
The suspect, 39, was charged in nearby Milwaukee County on November 5 with two felonies and three misdemeanors in a domestic violence battery incident in which he also allegedly violently resisted a police officer. He was also charged with bail jumping.
Six days later, the suspect posted a $500 cash bond and was released from custody. Even though he was charged with bail jumping and has a second open felony case, the suspect was allowed to walk free.
Court records indicate the suspect, identified as Darrell E. Brooks, Jr. has been committing violent crimes since 1999.
In July 2020, Brooks was charged with two counts of recklessly endangering safety through the use of a dangerous weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Bond in that case was originally set at $10,000, but then lowered to $7,500 two weeks later. In February, it was lowered again to $500 and he posted it a month later and was released from custody.
According to court records, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court was unable to meet Brooks’ demand for a speedy trial, as it is facing a massive backlog due to the COVID-19 shutdown earlier in 2020.
The court system is operating with a nearly two-year backlog that as of August included more than 1,600 felony cases. As a result, criminal defendants have been released on signature bonds or have had their cases dropped altogether.
When he was just 17 years old in 1999, the defendant reached a plea deal in a substantial battery case. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but that sentence was stayed and he received three years of probation.
In 2002, he was sentenced to 50 days in jail after he was arrested in a stolen car and charged with drug possession. He pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay restitution to the owner of the stolen car in addition to his jail time. Less than a year later, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer and was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
In 2010, Brooks pleaded guilty to a felony count of strangulation or suffocation in a domestic abuse case and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation. A little more than a year later, he violated the terms of his probation when he was arrested for resisting or obstructing an officer and was sentenced to 11 months in jail. He pleaded guilty to the resisting charge and was sentenced to 37 days in jail, which was added to his 11-month sentence.
While he was awaiting sentencing, though, and out on bail he was arrested for drug possession in November of 2011. Rather amazingly, he was released on a $250 signature bond, which means that he did not have to post any money to secure his release from custody. A month later, he was arrested again and again charged with drug possession and bail jumping. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
In July of 2020, he was charged with two counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and being a felon in possession of a firearm, but because of massive backlogs in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court System due to COVID-19 shutdowns, he has not yet been tried. As a result of this, his bail was lowered to $500 in February and he posted and left custody this past March.
After he was arrested again on November 5, a Milwaukee County Court commissioner set bail at $1,000 even though Brooks was now facing two different felony cases and was charged with bail jumping. Since he also had a prior bail jumping conviction and had also violated the terms of probation, it was highly likely that he would either re-offend while out of custody or skip court proceedings (or both).
Still, he was allowed to post bond and within two weeks had allegedly killed at least five people and injured 40 others while terrorizing a Christmas parade. His case is yet another tragic example of dangerous leniency in the criminal justice system can have deadly consequences.