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Multiple dead, more than 20 injured when SUV plows into Christmas parade in Waukesha

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WAUKESHA — Multiple people were killed and more than 20 injured when an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha Sunday evening, the police chief said. 

"There were some fatalities as a result of this incident," Chief Dan Thompson said during a news conference Sunday night.

Thompson declined to specify the number of people killed, but said more information would be released once families are notified. Some of those struck were children. 

A "person of interest" was taken into custody and a "suspect vehicle" was recovered, Thompson said. 

Those injured were taken to local hospitals either by police or others on scene, Thompson said. 

Thompson confirmed that shots were fired during the incident, but said police believe none of them were fired from the SUV. He said the gunshots came from officers trying to stop the vehicle. 

The scene is now "safe and secure," Thompson said. It's unknown whether the SUV driver was motivated by terrorism. 

Earlier, police were urging people to avoid the downtown area in Waukesha, Waukesha, located about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. 

Christmas Parade SUV

Police investigate at the scene of a crash involving multiple people and injuries at a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

A red SUV broke through barriers and sped directly through the route of the parade, close to children marching in the procession and families watching from the curb, according to a city of Waukesha livestream of the event and another video. About a minute and 20 seconds after the SUV, police squad cars drove through the same area.

One video shows the SUV striking what appears to be members of a marching band and several others along the parade route before driving on. The sound of the marching band heard before the SUV approaches is replaced by screams.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly told WITI in Milwaukee that he does not believe there is any ongoing danger to the public. 

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. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”

Angelito Tenorio, a West Allis alderman who is running for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he was watching the parade with his family when they saw the SUV come speeding into the area.

“Then we heard a loud bang,” Tenorio said. “And after that, we just heard deafening cries and screams from the crowd, from the people at the parade. And people started rushing, running away with tears in their eyes crying.”

Tenorio said he saw about 10 people, children and adults, on the ground who appeared to have been hit by the vehicle.

“It just happened so fast,” he said. “It was pretty horrifying.”

Waukesha City Council member Cory Payne said he talked with multiple friends who saw the "chaotic" incident first hand. He said a nurse was left "completely devastated" after watching someone die in front of her. She did not wish to speak to the media. 

"There (were) many people — or at least a few people — that were completely nonresponsive," Payne said. "And then several others that were desperately in need of medical attention."

Christmas Parade SUV

Police investigate at the scene of a crash involving multiple people and injuries at a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow called the events "horrific." He had just left the parade with his wife when he heard the sirens. 

"This is an unspeakable tragedy, affecting us all as we work to overcome an extremely challenging two years and resume our cherished holiday traditions," Farrow said. 

Gov. Tony Evers said he and his wife, Kathy, are "praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act." 

The Waukesha Police Department was urging everyone to avoid the downtown area. A family reunification area was set up at the Metro Transit Center by Bank Street, police said. 

The parade's route was mostly along Main Street, with turns onto West Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue, according to the city. 

Waukesha City Council member Cory Payne said now is a time for his community to come together and support each other.  

"This is all still so fresh," Payne said. "Everybody wants a moment to kind of take this in and make sure all their families are OK, make sure everybody's safe and praying for the ones that aren't. It's a tragic, tragic thing right now." 

This story will be updated. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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