'A horrible and senseless act': How the Journal Sentinel covered the Waukesha Christmas parade attack

·10 min read

Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021


4:41 p.m. Kaylee Staral, a Journal Sentinel intern, was at the parade with her family and witnessed the attack. Her first tweet came moments after it happened.

First tweets from Waukesha Christmas Parade coverage from Kaylee Staral.
First tweets from Waukesha Christmas Parade coverage from Kaylee Staral.


In Milwaukee, we had a single reporter on duty for the Sunday night shift. Once we learned of the parade incident, we scrambled a team. Some reporters were dispatched to Waukesha, located 20 miles west of downtown Milwaukee. Others began working law-enforcement sources by phone.

But the emergency response involved so many police and ambulances, it was difficult for anyone — sources included — to get a clear read on what had happened. Staral, meanwhile, had been hustled with other paradegoers into a nearby store to take cover amid the chaos. Her phone was nearly out of juice.

What followed was a cascade of tweets, updates, news alerts and stories that quickly provided a comprehensive — and accurate — picture of what happened. That was expanded over the next 24 hours, as we led the way in examining why the suspect was out on $1,000 bail, told the story of those who were killed, and helped center the community during a fraught time.

5:13 p.m. — First write-through of what happened published.


5:14 p.m. — At the same time, a mobile alert was sent.


5:45 p.m. — In Waukesha, reporters were kept at a distance from the parade route, but began reporting from the ground.


5:55 p.m. — In Milwaukee, reporters worked sources to help determine what had happened. We combed Twitter to identify witnesses.


6:26 p.m. — First photo gallery published. The images, from reporters and photojournalists, provided an early window into what happened.


6:50 p.m. — This was one of the first videos, from a camera operated by the City of Waukesha. It shows the SUV racing past, followed by a police officer on foot. The parade momentarily continues, until emergency vehicles speed through.


6:56 p.m. — Photojournalist Mike De Sisti was on his way back from Kenosha, where he and reporter Sophie Carson had covered a news conference related to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, which came down two days earlier. De Sisti was sent to the scene. Carson began chasing leads.


6:59 p.m. — News alert sent, with updated total of injuries.


7:04 p.m. — In addition to the main story, which was also being worked for a tight print deadline, we began to zero in on key information readers were searching for. The incident quickly drew international interest. As with other stories, we kept it constantly updated with the latest information.


7:06 p.m. — An emergency alert made it clear the situation was still dangerous.


8:02 p.m. — When officials spoke to the media for the first time, we had live coverage — available by clicking a link in the alert.


8:13 p.m. — Main story updated with details from the news conference.


8:27 p.m. — Reporter Sophie Carson collaborated with producer Chris Kuhagen to sort through various videos that had surfaced on Twitter. Putting the videos in the proper sequence was vital to helping readers understand what happened.


8:32 p.m. — Video from the news conference.


8:35 p.m. — Journalists on the ground continued to provide updates, which were fed into our stories.


8:59 p.m. — From the start, we gathered reaction from local, state and national figures. Eventually, even Pope Francis offered his condolences.


10:24 p.m. — Kaylee Staral, the Journal Sentinel intern, described what she saw in this video, and a story that accompanied it. Once things settled down, we pulled her from the scene to write up what she saw.


11:09 p.m. — Raw video from the scene.


Monday, Nov. 22, 2021


6:11 a.m. — We used a live blog to track what was happening. Often, we broke news here, then folded into other stories. It was the most direct way to get the latest news published quickly.


6:11 a.m. — Blog post

Victims being treated the morning after the Waukesha Christmas Parade incident

More questions than answers remain after a vehicle plowed through the crowd of a beloved holiday parade in Waukesha late Sunday afternoon, injuring more than 40 and leaving 5 people dead.

Area hospitals are still treating victims of the senseless tragedy, while questions remain about the exact number of injured or deceased from the incident.

Aurora Medical Center – Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, confirmed it was treating 13 patients early Monday morning. Read more in the live blog →


6:48 a.m. — Blog post

‘Person of interest’ in custody, police say motives are unknown

Local law enforcement officials announced they have a “person of interest” in custody, and Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson has said it’s unknown whether the incident “has any nexus to terrorism.” Read more in the live blog →


7:16 a.m. — By morning, the depth of the tragedy was becoming clear, since victims were scattered at hospitals around the area. The numbers would continue to rise.


7:19 a.m. — As fundraisers for the victims emerged, this article was built out over the course of the day.


7:30 a.m. — Blog post

Milwaukee Dancing Grannies confirms its members are among the dead

Members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies were killed by the vehicle during the parade, the organization confirmed on Facebook Monday morning.

The group did not say how many members were killed and injured. Read more in the live blog →


7:32 a.m. — Blog post

Fund created to help those affected by parade incident

A fund has been created for those affected by the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy, in which an SUV plowed into participants Sunday evening, killing five and injuring more than 40.

The United for Waukesha Community Fund has been created, according to a Twitter post late Sunday from Amy Linder, CEO and president of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. Read more in the live blog →


8:05 a.m. — Video from a morning news conference posted.


9:25 a.m. — Our sourcing gave us a jump on this story, allowing us to identify the suspect and his background before other outlets.


9:25 a.m. — News alert


9:51 a.m. — Blog post

18 treated at Children’s Wisconsin

Staff at Children’s Wisconsin said the hospital helped treat a total of 18 kids who were injured at the parade Sunday, according to a press release from the hospital.

The hospital, located about 10 miles from downtown Waukesha, will hold an 11 a.m. press conference to share more information about how the hospital will continue to treat kids from the scene. It's unclear now how many children, if any, have been released from Children's Wisconsin.

Aurora Medical Center – Summit, a hospital in Waukesha County, confirmed they were treating 13 patients early Monday morning. Of those 13, three are in “critical” condition, four are in “serious” condition and six are in “fair” condition, according to the hospital, which is located about 15 miles away from the scene of the tragedy. Read more in the live blog →


9:56 a.m. — In a first-person piece, David Haynes, a longtime staffer, helped capture what the community was feeling.


10:27 a.m. — Many groups scheduled vigils and gatherings to pray. We tracked those in a separate file for people who wanted to attend.


10:39 a.m. — Blog post

Suspect in Waukesha Christmas Parade crash recently charged

The suspect in the Waukesha Christmas Parade incident was charged with running over a woman in Milwaukee less than three week ago.

And according to the criminal complaint, he used a car with a similar description to the one that plowed into a crowd of people in Waukesha, killing five and injuring more than 40. Read more in the live blog →


11:10 a.m. — The view on Main Street the morning after.


11:31 a.m. — Blog post

DA's office reviewing prior 'inappropriately low' bail recommendation for suspect

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office has launched an internal review of the bail recommendation in the recent domestic violence related case involving Darrell Brooks, the suspected driver who is accused of running through the Waukesha holiday parade Sunday.

At least five people were killed and more than 40 injured Sunday in downtown Waukesha. Read more in the live blog →


12:47 p.m. — Blog post

Citizens Bank confirms employee killed in parade

The Mukwonago-based Citizens Bank confirmed Monday that a female employee has died from her injuries after being struck by the vehicle.

Representatives from the bank, which has 12 locations in the Waukesha area, were in the parade lineup directly behind the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies. Many of the dancers in that group were seriously injured or killed. Read more in the live blog →


12:57 p.m. — As it became clear who the victims were, we set out to tell their stories.


3:47 p.m. — There were hundreds of children in the crowd — and dozens among the injured. A priority for us was to provide information for parents.


4:30 p.m. — We published several videos, which were widely shared on social media, that summarized what happened and what we knew — verified information that helped quell rumors and disinformation that quickly began circulating.


4:40 p.m. — Blog post

Darrell Brooks Jr. will be charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide on Tuesday

The Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office will file charges against 39-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr., the suspected driver who plowed through a crowd during the Waukesha holiday parade Sunday afternoon.

The DA’s office will bring forward initial charges Tuesday and additional charges at a later date. Read more in the live blog →


5:00 p.m. — We covered the vigils that evening, but also streamed them live for readers.


5:07 p.m. — Sports columnist Lori Nickel wrote a piece that captured the feelings of many.


5:51 p.m. — The Waukesha Christmas Parade was the first of many scheduled in the Milwaukee area. Some communities canceled their parades. Others bolstered security and used the parade to send a message of solidarity with Waukesha.


9:28 p.m. — Our last story published on Monday captured the community's sorrow, but also its determined resilience.


Read more of our coverage since the Waukesha Christmas Parade incident →

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: How the Journal Sentinel covered the Waukesha Christmas parade attack

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