The wife of Catholic speaker and radio personality Dave Durand was among five people killed Sunday when a speeding Ford Escape sports utility vehicle plowed into a crowded Christmas parade in downtown Waukesha, Wis. The driver was charged Tuesday with five counts of intentional homicide, just as a sixth victim, age 8, died from his injuries.
Tamara L. Durand, 52, was among those struck when the red SUV careened down the route of the Waukesha Christmas Parade, running over, hitting and injuring more than 60 people, authorities said. The suspect, Darrell Edward Brooks Jr., 39, of Milwaukee, was charged Tuesday in Waukesha County Circuit Court with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Police said Brooks swerved from side to side as he sped down the parade route, avoiding cars and plowing into those walking in the parade.
Waukesha County District Attorney Susan L. Opper said her office will file a sixth count of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of a child who succumbed to injuries Tuesday afternoon. She said other charges are under consideration. Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin M. Costello ordered Brooks held in lieu of $5 million cash bail. Costello found probable cause to order a preliminary hearing, which he set for Jan. 14. “The nature of this offense is shocking,” Costello said. “…I’ve not seen anything like this in my very long career.” During the initial appearance, Brooks sat with his head bowed and cried, rocking up and down.
The latest to die from injuries suffered in the vehicular massacre was Jackson Sparks, 8, the son of Aaron and Sheri Sparks of Mukwonago, Wis., according to a statement on the family’s GoFundMe page. His older brother, Tucker Sparks, 12, was also injured, but is expected to be released, wrote Alyssa Albro, who identified herself as the Sparks’ niece. The boys were being treated at Children’s Wisconsin, a pediatric acute-care hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis.
“Tucker, by the grace of God is miraculously recovering from his injuries and will be being discharged home,” Albro wrote. “This afternoon, our dear Jackson has sadly succumbed to his injuries and passed away.”
Criminal complaint lists horrifying details
According to the criminal complaint issued Tuesday, Brooks drove down a side street that served as the staging area for the parade, sending participants diving for cover. Waukesha Police Detective Tom Casey stepped in front of the vehicle and pounded on the hood, ordering Brooks to stop. The SUV kept going and Casey tried pounding on the driver’s window, to no avail.
Brooks then sped up and turned onto the parade route on East Main Street, police said. Waukesha Police Officer Bryce Butryn attempted to stop the SUV as it drove southwest, but Brooks kept driving, looking straight ahead “with no emotion on his face,” the complaint said. At one point the vehicle stopped, then rapidly accelerated and Brooks took “an abrupt left turn into the crowd of parade participants,” the document read.
Butryn observed “the vehicle appeared to be intentionally moving side to side, striking multiple people, and bodies and objects were flying from the area of the vehicle,” the criminal complaint read. The officer concluded “this was an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible.”
As the SUV approached Wisconsin Avenue, still running over those in the parade, Waukesha Police Officer Bryce Scholten fired three shots into the SUV in an attempt to stop Brooks, who was unscathed. No bystanders were injured by the gunfire. One witness told police, “As I continued to watch the SUV, it continued to drive in a zig zag motion. It was like the SUV was trying to avoid vehicles, not people. There was no attempt made by the vehicle to stop, much less slow down.”
Opper took nearly 10 minutes outlining Brooks’ extensive two-decade criminal record, including a Nov. 2 incident in which he allegedly punched the mother of his child in the face and then ran her down with his vehicle. He was out on a $1,000 bond in that case at the time of the parade massacre. Costello said he had “no problem” setting bail at $5 million in the parade case, given Brooks’ criminal record and history of bail jumping.
Victim’s first parade with Dancing Grannies
Tamara Durand was a new member of the beloved Milwaukee Dancing Grannies choreographed dance troupe, a staple in community parades in southeastern Wisconsin. “First Milwaukee Dancing Grannies parade!” she wrote on her Facebook page. “So excited!” Other members of the Dancing Grannies killed by the SUV were Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81, who assisted the group. Also killed in the massacre was Jane Kulich, 52.
The Dancing Grannies group wrote on its Facebook page, “The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies are devastated by this terrible tragedy with of loss of life and injuries in the Waukesha Christmas parade. Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness. While performing, the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts.”
Tamara Durand (maiden name Carlson) married Dave Durand in February 2013. She had been an elementary school teacher and cheerleading coach with the Beaver Dam Unified School District, according to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.
She was a 1992 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Dave Durand is a well-known Catholic speaker, businessman and host of the Dave Durand Show on Relevant Radio. Dave Durand has had extensive involvement with Milwaukee-based Men of Christ, appearing in a 2020 video promoting Eucharistic Processions as an answer to the summer riots in Madison and across the nation. He is also the CEO and founder of Best Version Media in Brookfield, Wis.
In 2009, Tamara Durand rescued a man who fell into the swift currents of the Wisconsin River. “I was laying on my stomach on the ledge trying to get him to come to me. When he came to a wall he couldn’t climb it. He kept going under so I pulled him 50 feet along the retaining wall,” she said at the time, according to the Daily Citizen. “It was a miracle I never fell in myself. I kept encouraging him, saying things like, ‘have faith,’ and ‘God will help you.’ ”
Among the injured at the parade was a Catholic priest and students from the Waukesha Catholic School System, according to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Rev. Patrick Heppe of the Catholic Community of Waukesha was treated for injuries and released, according to the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. An email sent out by the Wisconsin State Council of the Knights of Columbus said a member of its Waukesha council suffered eight broken ribs when struck by the SUV.
“When confronted with the shock and the grief encountered by our brothers and sisters in Waukesha, it is now important for us to turn to our faith, which offers us God’s loving presence and consolation,” Listecki said in a video statement. “Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha. Among the injured are one of our Catholic priests as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children. Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said the annual Christmas parade is something the entire community turns out for. “Last night we experienced a senseless tragedy,” Reilly said at a Monday news conference. “Many of us were participants in the parade and witnessed these horrific actions. We are all trying to process what we experienced. Our police, firefighters, partners and so many others sprang into action immediately last night to help the people that were injured.”
Reilly described Waukesha as a close-knit community that loves its community celebrations. “Waukesha has held what could be described as a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas parade for almost six decades,” he said. “Last night, our wonderful Waukesha parade became the scene of a horrific tragedy. Last night that parade became a nightmare. Last night, many were severely injured. Last night lives were lost in the middle of what should have been a celebration.”
Brooks had just been released from custody after being charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors from a Nov. 2 incident in Milwaukee County. He also has an open felony case from 2020. In the 2020 case, he allegedly shot at two people during a fight, Opper told the court on Tuesday. Brooks is an aspiring rapper who goes under the name “MathBoi Fly,” according to his now-deleted Facebook page.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm released a letter saying the $1,000 bond in the Nov. 2 case was a mistake. “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,” Chisholm wrote. “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.” Chisholm said an internal review of the case is underway.
After being hospitalized for a week in 2004, Tamara Durand wrote a letter to the editor praising the efforts of the staff at Beaver Dam Community Hospital. “In this day of high-paid rock/jock models, we need to take a moment to realize who the real role models should be,” she wrote. “The role models are the men and women in the health care profession who, day and and day out, deal with pain, confusion, suffering, helplessness and trauma.”
“Next time you see a nurse or doctor, thank them for sharing their gift with us,” she wrote. “For one day you may be the one suffering. It will then be a nurse who gives you medicine and holds your hand until the pain disappears.”
(Editor’s note: This article was updated substantially from the CWR report posted on Nov. 22nd.)
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!