WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN — A judge-appointed court commissioner ordered a man suspected of a November 21 vehicular attack on a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to stand trial over the incident.
The suspect, a 39-year-old career criminal with an over two-decade track record with the police, sat quietly in an orange prison jumper in a Waukesha courtroom on Friday. Court commissioner Kevin Costello oversaw the suspect’s prelimary hearing, concluding at the end of the roughly hour-long session that there is “ample evidence” that the defendant “probably committed a felony or felonies within the jurisdiction of the court.”
The Daily Wire has decided not to name the defendant in line with its policy against naming those suspected of perpetuating mass casualty incidents.
The defendant was charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the days following the parade attack, which killed six people and wounded more than 60 others. On Wednesday, prosecutors filed 71 more charges against the defendant in connection with the incident, according to the Associated Press.
Just one witness was called during Friday’s hearing: Waukesha police detective Thomas Casey. Casey said he was on traffic control duty the day of the parade, assigned with keeping the parade on track and stopping errant drivers from entering the route. Casey was one of the officers who attempted to stop the driver of the red Ford Escape from plowing through dozens of parade marchers and bystanders. He is also now leading the police investigation into the attack.
Casey testified that he came nearly face-to-face with the driver of the red SUV as he attempted to stop it from entering the parade route. At one point, he was separated from the driver by no more than a couple feet and the SUV’s driver’s side window as the driver rolled toward the parade, nearly driving over Casey in the process.
“The vehicle continued driving into me. I’d say it was at a slow speed at that point,” Casey said, recounting his memory of the attack. “Eventually the vehicle made contact with me, and I was pounding on the hood yelling for it to stop, which it did not.”
“As the vehicle continued pushing through me, I was, um, my position changed to the side of the vehicle where I was directly outside of the driver’s side window and I could see inside of that window and I could see the driver very clearly,” Casey continued. He later identified the defendant as the driver of the red Ford Escape.
Casey said the parade was composed of roughly 100 groups with multiple people making up each group. He estimated that thousands of people attended the parade as spectators. At the prompting of prosecutors, Casey went through the red SUV’s path through groups of parade marchers: the school band for Waukesha South High School, the Xtreme Dance Team composed of middle schoolers in the area, the senior performance group Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, and others.
Casey said that at times the driver appeared to intentionally target groups of people, and stated that the red SUV appeared to reach a speed of 40-50 miles-per-hour during the roughly 3-minute long drive through the parade. He said that the driver never attempted to stop to check on the numerous victims hit. The detective also noted that inspectors certified that “there is nothing on the vehicle that is defective that would make the vehicle so it would not stop or accelerate.”
During cross-examination, the defendant’s attorneys asked Casey about police procedures for protecting the parade and noted an instance captured on video where the driver of the SUV appeared to purposely avoid hitting a small child and another instance where the driver swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle.
The defense team also asked Casey about his brief interaction with the driver of the red SUV during the parade. The defense team asked Casey about the driver wearing a gray sweatshirt and the length of the driver’s hair, to which Casey responded that he saw those details after while reviewing evidence. As he attempted to stop the red SUV, Casey reiterated that he was only focused on the driver’s face.
“I was just focused on his face. I mean, I was just zeroed in on his face. That’s all that I was looking at. It happened very fast. I was very orientated on his face,” Casey said. “Things were happening very fast and I wanted to remember his face, so I was focusing on that.”
Defense attorneys noted that a police officer that came into contact with the defendant after his arrest reported an “odor of marijuana” on the suspect and observed that the suspect’s eyes were “red, bloodshot, [and] glassy.”
The defense team further noted that during an interview with police, the defendant “did not want” to look at photos and videos of the parade carnage and at one point “begged” officers to stop showing them to him. The suspect “indicated to one of the detective that ‘I didn’t mean to kill nobody,’” a defense attorney said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Commissioner Costello set the defendant’s arraignment for the morning of February 11.