More than 20 people were injured, some fatally, when an SUV drove down a holiday parade route in downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sunday afternoon, police said.
Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said at an evening press conference that multiple deaths resulted from the incident but that exact numbers would be withheld until loved ones could be notified.
Area hospitals reported treating at least 28 people from the parade, including 15 who were taken to Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee and 13 at Aurora Medical Center in Summit. Aurora said in a statement that three of those patients were in critical condition.
Sandra Peterson, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said some of its students were injured.
“Among the injured are one of our Catholic priests, as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children,” she said.
Senior law enforcement officials say a person of interest who may have a significant criminal history was being questioned overnight. Investigators are probing the possibility whoever was behind the wheel had been involved in an earlier incident involving a knife and was fleeing when the vehicle reached the parade just after 4:30 p.m., they said.
The vehicle went through barricades set up for the parade before striking people, Thompson said.
An officer opened fire at the SUV in an attempt to stop it, the chief said, and no one was injured. The vehicle was recovered, Thompson said.
Those hit by the SUV were taken to area hospitals by paramedics, police, and family members, he said.
A shelter-in-place alert sent to the cellphones of some Waukesha residents was intended to help authorities investigate the incident, he said.
A FBI spokesperson said that the bureau was aware of the event but that local authorities would lead the inquiry.
Mayor Shawn Reilly said at an earlier press conference that it was “a traumatic situation for the city of Waukesha.”
Angelito Tenorio, a candidate for Wisconsin state treasurer, said he just finished marching in the parade with the Waukesha County Democratic Party when the vehicle sped down the route.
“People [were] running away from the scene, leaving their belongings behind, looking for their kids, family friends,” he told MSNBC. “It looked like there were folks on the ground lying who may have been struck by the vehicle.”
Scott Greger, a Waukesha resident, said he witnessed the vehicle strike someone, continue, and then hit a float.
“The red SUV came barreling down the street — very, very high rate of speed, and hit a pedestrian,” he said live on MSNBC. “
He said the SUV’s presence was preceded by police sirens in the area.
Greger described the route as “full” with marchers and spectators. The event in suburban Milwaukee, billed as the Waukesha’s 58th annual Christmas Parade, had been canceled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
Thompson said later Sunday that roads in the area of the incident would remain closed and that Monday classes are canceled for Waukesha public schools.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers responded to the incident on Facebook, writing, “I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information.”
The White House is monitoring the situation, according to a statement.
Monica Alba, Sarah Kaufman, Shamar Walters, Courtney Brogle, Gemma DiCasimirro, Janhvi Bhojwani and Michael Kosnar contributed.