At least five people have been killed and 40 injured – including at least 12 children – after a speeding SUV plowed into a Christmas parade taking place in a suburban town near Milwaukee on Sunday.
A red Ford Escape broke through barriers in Waukesha, Wisconsin, around 4.40pm as the parade was taking place and drove at speed through crowds, sending bodies flying as horrified families watched helplessly.
Police say a ‘person of interest’ is now in custody, but that no arrests have been made. Chief Daniel Thompson said no motive has yet been established, but officers are not discounting terrorism.
NBC said . Officers are also looking into the possibility that the suspect was fleeing an earlier incident involving a knife when he reached the parade.
Thompson said one officer fired at the vehicle in an unsuccessful bid to stop it, with witnesses saying it did not slow down even as it hit children and elderly people both participating in the parade and watching.
Dozens of pieces of footage – intended to capture joyous scenes from the annual event – ended up capturing the carnage instead, revealing the car traveled at least three blocks down the parade route before driving away.
A picture captured later at an unknown location showed what appeared to be the vehicle involved backed on to a driveway with the hood badly dented and bent up. It is unclear how the vehicle came to be there, and police have not revealed exactly how the suspect was arrested.
Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV.
”They were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,’ he said. ‘My wife and two daughters were almost hit.
”I saw bodies flying. I ran down the parade route to find my girls. Addison, my daughter, heard someone yell “car” and ran away. The girls right next to her were hit.
”I was there. It was little kids and families… evil is real, fight it every chance you get.”
Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, said it was treating 15 patients who were hurt in the parade. The hospital said there were no fatalities as of late Sunday night.
Three are listed in critical condition, four in serious condition and six in fair condition.
At around 7:15pm local time, the Waukesha Police Department sent a push alert to cell phones of residents in the area asking them to shelter in place “within a half-mile radius of the 5 points downtown.”
“We have a person of interest that we are looking into at this time,” Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson told reporters.