The man arrested over the deadly Christmas parade attack in Wisconsin should have been behind bars following an arrest earlier this month, but was released on an “inappropriately low” bond days before the attack, the district attorney admitted Monday.
Darrell Brooks, 39, is charged with five counts of intentional homicide over the deadly crash on Sunday in Waukesha that left five dead and at least 48 injured, police said.
Brooks was out on $1,000 cash bail at the time of Sunday’s tragedy after he allegedly punched the mother of his child and purposefully ran her “over with his vehicle” in a Milwaukee gas station parking lot on Nov. 2, according to court documents.
He was arrested and charged that same day with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering safety, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said Monday it had launched an internal probe into how Brooks was given such a low bond given the seriousness of the charges and his criminal history.
Darrell Brooks has been charged with homicide for killing five people in a Christmas parade on November 21, 2021.
Abandoned chairs, blankets and other items remain along West Main Street in downtown Waukesha after a vehicle plowed through the Christmas parade.
“The state’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
“The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail.
“This office is currently conducting an internal review of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation in this matter in order to determine the appropriate next steps.”
Brooks also has another pending case in Milwaukee from July last year in which he is charged with reckless endangering and illegal possession of a firearm, court documents show.
Police said they were called to Brooks’ home after he allegedly fired his gun during a dispute with his nephew on July 24.
His cash bail in that case was initially set at $10,000 before being reduced to $7,500, the DA’s office said.
Brooks remained in custody before his scheduled trial was set to get underway in February when he made a demand for a speedy jury trial.
The DA said that demand couldn’t be met, so the case was adjourned and his bail was dropped to just $500, which he posted on Feb. 21.
In Wisconsin, a defendant has the right to have his or her criminal case tried within a certain period of time if the defendant requests it, said Julius Kim, a Milwaukee-based criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.
“There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, the time requirements must be adhered to,” Kim said. “In situations where a person remains in custody because of an inability to post bail, the court must release that person if the case isn’t tried in time.”
Kim said while bail in Brooks’ first case is not uncommon, it happens occasionally because of court congestion.
“With regard to the low cash bail request by the State in the newer case on November 5, I think that could’ve been the result of inadvertence, or perhaps, an inexperienced prosecutor issuing the case and making a bail recommendation that was too low under the circumstances,” Kim said.
The former prosecutor added, “I do think it’s unusual for a prosecutor’s office to acknowledge a mistake like this, but I know the District Attorney personally, having worked in that office before, and it doesn’t surprise me that he did.”
Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson revealed Monday that Brooks had been involved in a domestic disturbance just minutes before the Christmas parade carnage.
Those killed in the rampage included four women ages 52 to 79 and an 81-year-old man.
John Gross, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Director of the Public Defender Project, said while he expects public outrage regarding Brooks’ prior bail, he said Sunday’s deadly incident was an “aberration.”
“My fear here is that people are going to have a knee-jerk reaction and say people charged with violent crimes shouldn’t be allowed on the streets,” Gross said. “They are presumed to be innocent and we don’t want to just lock people up because we think they might do something violent when they are out. And in fact, most studies show that it is very unlikely that someone who is out on bail, even if they’re charged with a violent offense, is going to commit another violent offense.”