By Catholic News Service
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CNS) — Church leaders and parishes offered prayers for the five people who died and dozens more who were injured, including a Catholic priest, church parishioners and Catholic school students, when an SUV plowed through parade participants and spectators watching a Christmas parade.
“Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,” Sandra Peterson, communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said in a statement posted on the archdiocesan website hours after the incident occurred the evening of Nov. 21.
Waukesha is about 20 miles west of Milwaukee and is in the archdiocese.
“Among the injured are one of our Catholic priests, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children,” Peterson said. Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”
A post early Nov. 22 on the Facebook page of the Catholic Community of Waukesha, a group of four parishes, said church leaders monitored “the impact of yesterday’s tragic event” and ministered to injured parishioners as well as those who attended the parade but were uninjured.
“It is in our most difficult hours that we, as a community, turn to our Lord for refuge, strength and love,” the post said.
Community members gathered after the incident and prayed the rosary on Facebook. Mass was offered early Nov. 22 at St. William Church, one of the churches in the community, for the victims.
The Waukesha Catholic Community also arranged for counseling and support services for anyone seeking assistance. Authorities said early Nov. 22 that five people died and more than 40 others were injured when an SUV broke through a barricade about 4:39 p.m. local time and drove down the street on which the parade was taking place.
The victims included at least 11 adults and 12 children, authorities said.
Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said Darrell E. Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, was in custody for the incident and is expected to be charged with five counts of intentional homicide.
Thompson also added that more charges could follow.
Mayor Shawn Reilly described the incident as a “horrible and senseless act,” local media reported.
Officials at the School District of Waukesha canceled classes for Nov. 22.
A video posted on the website of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showed an SUV speeding down the street between parade participants and parade watchers sitting and standing curbside as a police vehicle, with siren blaring, followed at a slower pace.
Another video showed bags, a baby stroller and other personal belongings strewn in the street along the parade route afterward.
The newspaper also reported that Thompson said that “an officer discharged his weapon at the suspect vehicle to try to stop the vehicle. No bystanders were inured as a result of the weapon discharge.”
The parade is one the city’s biggest and most beloved annual events, drawing viewers and participants from throughout southeastern Wisconsin.