A joyous Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin turned into a scene of deadly horror when a red SUV plowed into a crowd on the city’s Main Street late Sunday.
At least five people were killed and more than 40 others were injured, according to officials in the suburban Milwaukee city. Those numbers may change as new information comes to light, they said.
The exact circumstances surrounding the incident and what may have motivated it were not yet clear.
A person of interest was taken into custody, Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said at a news conference Sunday evening. Senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that a person of interest who may have a significant criminal history was being questioned overnight.
Investigators are probing the possibility that whoever was behind the wheel had been involved in an earlier incident involving a knife fight and was fleeing just prior to the vehicle reaching the parade, around 4:30 p.m., they said.
An FBI spokesperson said that the bureau was aware of the event but that local authorities would lead the inquiry.
Video from the scene showed a red SUV speeding down the parade route, then barreling into the crowd while a band was playing.
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, said Thompson, who added that police were no longer searching for the vehicle.
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.
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.
At least one Catholic priest as well as multiple parishioners and Waukesha Catholic school children were injured, according to Sandra Peterson, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Roads in the area of the incident would remain closed, as would businesses, the city said on Facebook. Classes were canceled for Waukesha public schools on Monday.
“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,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wrote on Facebook Sunday evening.
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.