Waukesha Christmas Parade Killer, Darrell Brooks, Fires His Attorneys and Chooses to Defend Himself in Court
October 17, 2022

Tamira Musgrave



  • Darrell Brooks, the man who killed and injured countless people at the Waukesha Christmas Parade, will represent himself in court.
  • Darrell Brooks faces 77 charges for the November 21, 2021, Christmas parade attack.
  • His charges include six counts of first-degree murder and 61 counts of felony reckless endangerment, plus more. Each murder charge comes with a mandatory life sentence. 
  • He initially pleaded not guilty, and his reasoning was his mental health – a desperate attempt to have his case dismissed.
  • Brooks has a lengthy criminal background dating back to 1999.

Originally published on 10/2/2022

The man who plowed a vehicle through dozens of victims enjoying a Wisconsin Christmas parade, ultimately killing six and injuring 62, has opted to be his own lawyer when his trial officially begins Monday, October 3, 2022– about ten months after he terrorized the town of Waukesha. 

Darrell Brooks faces 77 charges for the November 21, 2021, Christmas parade attack. His charges include six counts of first-degree murder and 61 counts of felony reckless endangerment, plus more. Each murder charge comes with a mandatory life sentence. 

He initially pleaded not guilty, and his reasoning was his mental health – a desperate attempt to have his case dismissed.

Judge Jennifer Dorow decided to allow Brooks to be his lawyer. However, some fear the results will be chaotic. Brooks was escorted out of court in August after going on an unruly rant, and it wasn’t the first time he’s acted erratically in court

Darrell Brooks, a man with an exceptionally long criminal record, was arrested just three weeks before the Christmas parade. At this time, it was for punching the mother of his child in the face and then running her over in a gas station parking lot, leaving visible tire marks on her leg, among other injuries. The same SUV used to plow down his child’s mother was the one used to plow down 68 others during the parade.

Brooks posted bail for the domestic violence incident two days before ruining the Waukesha Christmas parade. He told Fox News after he killed and injured multiple innocent people, including one 8-year-old child, “I just feel like I’m being monster – demonized.”

Since Brooks has a disorderly track record, it would not be a surprise if he sparked chaos in the courtroom at the drop of a hat. 

Brooks Criminal Past Dates Back to 1999

There is a warrant currently out for Brooks’ arrest in Nevada, where he failed to appear at a court hearing in 2016. He failed to notify authorities once he moved locations. Brooks was required to do so because he was on the state’s sex offender registry. 

Criminal records that date back to 1999 reveal Brooks was charged with battery, to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months behind bars plus three years probation. 

In 2002, Brooks spent 50 days in jail for possession of THC. In 2003, he was arrested and sentenced for misdemeanor resisting/obstructing an officer. 

In 2005, Darrell Brooks was arrested again for misdemeanor obstructing an officer, which led to a two-day sentence

Brooks was convicted in 2006 of felony statutory sexual seduction after impregnating a 15-year-old girl. 

Brooks pleaded no contest to felony suffocation, strangulation, strangulation, and violating his probation in 2010. He was sentenced to 11 months behind bars and three years of probation. 

He landed another jail sentence for obstructing an officer in 2011, spending 37 days behind bars. The same year, he was arrested for possession of THC, and the judge gave him 180 days in jail. However, he wasn’t entirely done yet. 

Towards the end of 2011, he was charged with misdemeanor bail jumping and another THC offense. Brooks got another 180-day sentence for these. 

Brooks Trial Begins Monday, October 3, 2022

Brooks fired his attorneys and will represent himself beginning Monday, October 3. Brooks has no legal experience and is unlikely to know the court’s procedures. Not many people who represent themselves in court come out on top, especially ones with criminal records like Darrell Brooks. 

We also know he is used to causing a scene and has a lengthy record in terms of crime. During pre-trial hearings, Dorow lashed out at Brooks for laughing in the courtroom, telling him to “stop playing games.” 

Judge Dorow commented about Brooks representing himself, “This court has warned Mr. Brooks what he is getting into.” She also acknowledged that she has carefully reviewed his evaluations from several psychologists. 

Three days have been set aside for jury selection starting Monday; more than 100 potential jurors will be brought in daily. The case is said to take 5-7 days to present and is scheduled to take about one month but may conclude sooner.

October 3, 2022- First Day of Trial

Darrell Brooks kicked off his first day of trial with plenty of disruptions. He lasted just seven minutes before he began to cause a scene. He disrupted proceedings ahead of jury selection and snapped at Judge Dorow, saying he did not recognize her as a judge of the state of WI. 

Judge Dorow ultimately had to call 11 recesses because of Brooks’ unruly behavior. Dorow stated, “I cannot tolerate that, and I won’t tolerate that.” 

After Brooks’ was allowed back in the courtroom, he complained that he had been sent into “a gunfight with a butter knife.”  Dorow repeated her removal order after this outburst.

October 4, 2022

The second day of the trial was just as turbulent as the first. Ten minutes into proceedings, Dorow had to send Brooks to participate from another courtroom via video. At one point, Brooks felt that he had to point out that he was a sovereign, not a sovereign citizen. 

Brooks’ asked Dorow to “state her name,” among other odd questions. He also suggested that the court dismiss the case due to “judicial misconduct.”

After removal, Brooks was seen standing in a separate courtroom, making many arm and hand gestures. He currently faces 76 criminal charges. Six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with the use of a dangerous weapon, 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with the use of a dangerous weapon, six counts of hit-and-run involving death, and two counts of bail jumping, all of which are felonies—one other count of misdemeanor domestic abuse-battery. 

Shortly after 9 a.m., Dorow brought in 41 more jurors for questioning. Dorow, prosecutors, and Brooks spent the following few hours listening to members of the panel answer standard questions. Finally, around 11:30 a.m., she had concerns regarding six of the panel members, and those six jurors were struck for cause. 

By afternoon, the court approached its minimum number of 36 jurors set by Dorow to permit the selection process to progress to the next level, which would be peremptory strikes. Peremptory strikes are utilized to remove someone from the jury without justification.

October 5, 2022

Judge Dorow planned for the court to address outstanding issues today. However, she did not anticipate Brooks’ motion to adjourn. 

Darrell Brooks, who has 76 criminal charges against him, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, stated that he is on Covid-19 protocol and began noticing symptoms several days prior. Brooks suggested that he was concerned for the health of those around him. He said, “I’m afraid right now, I’m not feeling well. I don’t know what’s going on with myself. That’s why I put in the sick call slip. I’ve had people close to me who passed away from Covid.” 

Prosecutors believe that this is merely a delay tactic, stating that Brooks had been telling his mother over the phone that he plans on getting the trial delayed or adjourned for weeks. Brooks was offered a rapid test but refused; he wanted to wait for his other test results, which are due to come in by Friday. Judge Dorow ultimately denied his motion to adjourn, agreeing with the prosecution that it was a delay tactic.

October 6, 2022

After a dozen outbursts, Judge Dorow had to remove Brooks from the courtroom again and have him participate via video in another room. 

When he appeared on video about 15 minutes later, Brooks had removed his shirt and had his back facing the camera. Dorow explained that Brooks also took off one of his shoes and behaved as though he wanted to throw it. Brooks then threatened to start breaking objects.

The Prosecution called two witnesses today, Waukesha Police Sgt. David Wanner, and the roommate of Brooks’ girlfriend, Kori Runkel. 

Sgt. David Wanner testified about what happened when Brooks plowed his SUV through countless unsuspecting people. Regarding the overall chaos and victims’ cries for help, he stated, “It was the most terrible thing I’ve ever heard,” as he fought back tears. During cross-examination, Brooks asked whether, in the video, Sgt. Wanner could see anyone trying to intentionally hit people. Wanner responded that he did not. 

Kori Runkel, Brooks’ girlfriend’s roommate, testified about witnessing the confrontation the two had near the park. Runkel saw them arguing and recalled Brooks demanding that she (his girlfriend) get back in the car or that he would kill her. Runkel admitted to drinking alcohol before witnessing the event unfold, and Brooks questioned if she might have been too impaired to understand what was happening. Runkel admitted that she was indeed “tipsy” at the time but not drunk. 

Videos of victims and witnesses are now allowed. Dorow stated, “This court took significant efforts to keep victims’ names private. In addition, I have done everything I could do to protect their privacy… The time has come for this trial to be conducted.” She clarified that the victims’ names will now be on the record.

October 7, 2022

Friday, October 7, marked the first full day of testimony in the Darrell Brooks trial. While Brooks had to repeatedly be transferred to a different courtroom throughout the week, Friday took a different turn as Brooks remained in the original courtroom for most of the day. 

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., Dorow mentioned the COVID-19 results for Brooks came back negative. 

After calling two individuals to the stand Thursday, prosecutors called six people to testify Friday. Darrell’s ex-girlfriend was one of them. Waukesha Police Detective Thomas Casey was the final person to take the stand Friday. 

Casey said he tried to stop the red SUV that ended up killing six and injuring dozens more. He stated, “I thought it was just a lost motorist. Not often, but sometimes, people come through impatient – they always stop.” He adds, “I’m yelling ‘stop,’ pounding on the hood (of the SUV), trying to get the person’s attention, so they’d stop… the vehicle kept pushing, struck right through me.”

Brooks will have the opportunity to cross-examine Casey once the trial resumes on Monday,  October 10th. 

October 10, 2022

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Darrell Brooks began apologizing for his behavior and actions the week before. 

He stated, “I just want to state this for the record that I would like to issue the court an apology from me in regards to my actions last week during the trial. I just want the court to understand it’s very emotional right now, not only for just the whole situation of the trial, the families here that have to go through, you know, everything that’s going to be involved with the trial, but also my family, as well, myself. It’s very, very emotional, but not to excuse my actions, and I should carry myself with better respect. I wasn’t raised that way, and I owe you, your Honor, and the court an apology.”

We heard from victims who were injured during the Waukesha Christmas parade attack, including the first person he struck with his SUV. Prosecutors called Nicole White to the witness stand; she had suffered injuries to her knee, tailbone, and spine after being hit by the SUV. She recalls the moments leading up to the collision, “When I looked up, the vehicle just continued.” She added that she did not see brake lights or hear a horn. 

Next on the stand was Sarah Wehmeier-Aparicio, Waukesha South High School’s band director. She was standing at the front of the band when the incident occurred. She stated, “All of a sudden, I thought I heard something… there was some sort of vehicle trying to get through.” She continues to recall seeing things “flying through the air.” Initially, she thought it was accidental. However, she adds, “But as the driver went past, I saw he was staring straight ahead.” 

Ten band members of the Waukesha South Band were struck, and a video was played where you can hear the band’s music turn into screams of terror. Brooks asked whether the sound of the band would have impaired her ability to hear the sound of a car horn. She stated she believed she would have heard a car horn, explaining to Brooks that it would have been an “unexpected sound.”

Kyle Jewell was also called to the witness stand; Jewell had attended the parade with his family. Jewell said band members were the only people he saw struck by the SUV. Brooks asked, “Fair to say there were hundreds, even thousands of people for the parade?” Jewell answered yes. Brooks added, “And you only saw a handful of people struck?” Jewell stated, “Waukesha South Band is a pretty large band, and the red SUV went right through it, and if I had to estimate, 10, maybe 15, I don’t know the exact number, were struck by the SUV.”

Brooks responded, “Fair to say that’s a small portion of people struck….” An objection was sustained. 

October 11, 2022

The trial shifts to focus attention on the Waukesha parade’s youngest victims. Kelly Grabow, who attended the parade with her daughter, testified about the incident. They were both hit by the SUV and injured; she recalls what happened and described their injuries. She stated, “As I turned, all I saw was the hood of the red vehicle. I landed and saw the tire roll past my face.” She said she saw her daughter “in the middle of the road… her shoes down the road.” 

Grabow said she suffered ligament damage to her knee and hand; she was treated at the hospital after going to Children’s Wisconsin with her daughter. She refused to go anywhere until she knew her daughter was safe at home, so she delayed her own medical attention. As a result of being struck, her daughter sustained bruising down her back, road rash on her face, and a broken hand. 

The second witness called to the stand was Jeff Rogers, president, and coach of the Waukesha Blazers baseball team. He recalls the chaos of people running toward him and to the side of the street when he saw a red SUV drive through the parade. He attended the parade with three of his kids, two of whom he said were hurt in the incident. 

Joshua Kraner, Slammers baseball coach, also testified. Kraner says he instantly tried to locate his son after the SUV drove through the parade. He recalled being knocked to the ground and seeing “tires going by.” He ended up in the hospital with bone bruises and contusions, adding that he “could not walk.” 

Around 11:30 am, the jury was excused so the court could review Brooks’ line of questioning when cross-examining Kraner, specifically when Brooks asked Kraner about what he saw on the news. Judge Dorow asked Brooks for an offer of proof as to why the line of questioning was relevant to the case. Dorow ended the discussion by telling Brooks to ask pertinent questions, and they would be answered. 

October 12, 2022

We continue to hear testimonies from various witnesses, many of whom had children who were tragically injured during the parade. During the trial, severe weather prompted an early lunch recess and, later on, an early jury dismissal for the day. 

Daniel Knapp was one of the witnesses. He stated that seeing a car coming at them at a parade was “very unexpected.” He testified that he saw the SUV hit his daughter and that she “flew 15 feet toward Clinton Street. He said he picked up his daughter and rushed her to the hospital for treatment. She suffered injuries to her spleen and needed facial surgery.

Heather Riciotti was also called to testify. She attended the Waukesha Christmas parade with her children, ages 2, 5, and 7. She stated that she was near Main and Clinton when her son Owen, just five years old, was struck by the SUV. She recalled seeing the SUV coming, “It was coming faster than any parade float should have; it was confusing. It veered into the crowd, and my son got hit.”

Matthew Harris, another parade attendant, recalled the incident, “I saw it make a right turn towards our corner. I remember screaming, ‘Get back!’ My immediate thought was he hit something.” Harris’s daughter had her foot run over, and another girl nearby was sideswiped. 

October 13, 2022

Things began to get tense in the courtroom late Thursday morning. 

Darrell Brooks went on a 50-minute rant, calling for the dismissal of the case against him. He included various reasons why proceedings should not continue. Judge Dorow denied the request, stating that the trial would continue. 

He complained that he had requested certified copies of “everything.” He said the docket sheet was not certified, nor was Dorow’s oath of office that “you state for the record you would not give me.” Brooks said, “You are required to show it if I ask for it.” He claimed his Sixth Amendment constitutional right “has been pretty much disregarded.”

He continued to bring up so-called problems, noting that he only had three days to “prepare for a trial that the prosecution has been preparing for an entire year.” Darrell Brooks decided to fire his public defenders just three days before his case and take on the responsibility alone. He said, “How can I possibly go through all the paperwork and digital discovery and be prepared in three days? That’s a clear bias.” 

He brought up the dismissal of his attorneys and said that he should have “at the least” been permitted to have standby counsel to assist him in representing himself. 

Brooks had an issue with Dorow, who said she worked with the father of one of the people injured during the parade and called and spoke to the person after hearing about the many injuries. Brooks said this was “a clear conflict of interest in this matter.” 

Laura Thein, a member of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, was called to testify. She reminisced about her fellow dancer and friend, Ginny Sorenson, who was struck and killed by the SUV during the parade. She said, “She was so close to everybody. We were like sisters. And if you had a problem, she would always ask you about it.” Video evidence was played during the proceedings. At one point, a man in the gallery could be seen burying his face in his hands and then plugging his ears to avoid seeing or hearing the traumatic video. 

October 14, 2022

Dorow and Brooks continue to butt heads in the courtroom. Only two minutes into court, Brooks began arguing over subject matter jurisdiction. Judge Dorow called it irrelevant and told him, “This is an irrelevant matter you’re attempting to bring up in front of the jury. The jury is here; please show your respect for decorum.” Dorow then excused the jury and addressed Brooks, having to call a brief recess to let Brooks calm down. 

Dorow also had issues later on with Brooks’ cross-examination methods and his multiple attempts to question the court’s jurisdiction. Dorow stated, “I’m like the umpire in a baseball game, sire. I call and see the legal objections as I see them. That is my role, and that is what I do.” Brooks responded, “Are you kidding me?”

More witnesses testified Friday, many of which were law enforcement, including Franklin Assistant Police Chief Craig Liermann. He attended the parade with his family. He recalls seeing the SUV driver, “I would describe him as being in an excited state, not in a state of panic. More excited or almost happy about what was going on. Not panicked or scared.” 

Earlier this week, the state indicated it had hoped to rest its case by Friday. However, that is no longer possible, as witnesses are expected to testify as late as Tuesday.

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