The man who killed six people and injured many more when he drove his SUV over them christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Waukesha County District Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced the 40-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr. on 76 allegationsincluding six counts of willful first-degree m*rder and 61 counts of reckless endangerment.

Each homicide carried a mandatory life sentence, and the only uncertainty on Wednesday was whether Dorow would allow Brooks to serve any part of those sentences under community-based expanded surveillance, the state’s current version of parole. She does not. Wisconsin does not have the d*ath penalty.

Tuesday, like Brooks victims filed asset declarations before the court, almost all of them pleaded with the judge for the harshest possible sentence. Chris Owens, whose mother was among those killed, told Brooks, “I’m just asking you to rot and rot slowly.”

Brooks was driving his red Ford Escape during a parade in downtown Waukesha on November 21, 2021, after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy marching with his baseball team, as well as three members of a group known as dancing grandmothers. Dozens of others were injured.

Families mourn victims of Wisconsin Christmas parade tragedy


On Wednesday, before the judge handed down her sentence, Brooks told the court that he had suffered from mental illness since his youth and had no plans to enter the parade route. He also apologized to the dozens of people who were injured or lost loved ones during the incident.

Brooks told Dorow in remarks that dragged on for two hours that he grew up without a father, poor and hungry, in apartment buildings infested with rats and bugs. Brooks said he had dealt with mental health issues for as long as he could remember and that he was physically abused, though he did not say by whom. He sometimes took medication and had short stays in mental health facilities, and life was better then, he said.

‚ÄúPeople will, like I said, believe what they want, and that’s okay. It has to be said: What happened on November 21, 2021 was not, no, not an att*ck. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t plotted, Brooks said, later adding, “It wasn’t intentional. No matter how many times you say it over and over again, it wasn’t.”

Brooks also offered his first apology to the victims and their families.

“I want you to know that not only am I sorry for what happened, but I am sorry that you couldn’t see what’s really in my heart,” he said. “That you can’t see the remorse I have.”

But Brooks did not explain his motive or provide any other insights into what he was thinking of turning the SUV into a parade. When Dorow asked him what sentence he should get, he did not answer directly, but said, “I just want them to help me.”

Brooks’ mother and grandmother tried to convince Dorow to put Brooks in a psychiatric hospital rather than prison. His grandmother, Mary Edwards, said Brooks suffered from bipolar disorder from the age of 12, and the illness caused him to enter the parade. His mother, Dawn Woods, pressured Dorow to give Brooks treatment in prison.

A car drives through the holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin
Monuments placed along Main Street in downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin are left where people were hit by a driver entering the Christmas parade on Downtown Main Street on Nov. 22, 2021, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Jim Vondruska / Getty Images

“If they have to stay away from society for the rest of their lives, at least they’re getting the help they need to become mentally healthy,” Woods said.

Brooks seemed to cry as his mother spoke.

Dorow spent much of Tuesday listening to dozens of victims demand the highest possible sentence from Brooks. One by one, they described the frantic search for their children in the immediate aftermath, the pain their children endured as they still struggle to recover from their injuries, and the emptiness they feel as they deal with the loss of their deceased loved ones.

District Attorney Susan Opper asked Dorow on Tuesday to issue further sentences so that “as he arranged the victims as he drove down the road”, with no chance of release after extended supervision.

Brooks chose to represent himself during his month-long trial, which was punctuated by his erratic outbursts. He refused to answer his own name, was often interrupted by Dorow, and often refused to stop talking. Many times the judge had bailiffs move Brooks to another courtroom where he could attend via video, but she could mute his microphone when he became a nuisance.

Dorow had no choice but to let Brooks represent himself, noting that several psychologists found him competent.

Brooks apologized to Dorow for his antics on Wednesday, saying he was frustrated during the trial and she shouldn’t take it personally.

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