The Milwaukee district attorney is facing criticism after admitting that Darrell Brooks Jr., the man accused of ramming into parade-goers in a Wisconsin suburb, was released on an “inappropriately low” bail just days before the deadly car crash last weekend.
District Attorney John Chisholm said he is investigating the $1,000 bail set for Mr. Brooks, 39, who was facing six earlier charges, including second-degree recklessly endangering safety and battery, after he allegedly drove a car over the mother of his child.
“The state’s bail recommendation in this case was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks,” he said, adding that it was “not consistent” with his office’s usual approach to violent crime cases and risk assessments.
Mr. Brooks is now charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide after police say he ran over people with his car during a parade in Waukesha County on Sunday, leaving five dead initially and at least 62 injured, including several children.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that a sixth person has died, an 8-year-old boy, and more charges are pending.
His bail was set at $5 million.
The crime could have been avoided if Mr. Brooks was still behind bars, according to former state Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican.
“The heartbreak of this act is only compounded by the reality that this was yet another avoidable tragedy that occurred because a violent career criminal was allowed to walk free and terrorize our community,” Ms. Kleefisch, who is running for Wisconsin governor next year, said on Monday.
Republican State Rep. Cindi Duchow says she is planning to reintroduce legislation to permit judges to consider a defendant’s danger to the community when assigning bail amounts.
“He tried to run over his girlfriend with his car — that’s attempted murder,” Ms. Duchow said on Monday. “If you’re a danger to society, you should have to work hard to get out.”
Court records show Mr. Brooks was released on $500 bail earlier this year in a separate case for charges including two counts of second degree recklessly endangering safety and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The bail amount was initially set at $10,000, then reduced to $7,500 and ultimately dropped to $500 after the case was adjourned because his demand for a speedy trial could not be met.
Mr. Chisholm, a Democrat, was elected as the Milwaukee district attorney in 2007 and has lauded himself as a “progressive” prosecutor.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, lambasted him on Tuesday after a resurfaced interview from years ago revealed that the district attorney had touted his support for progressive criminal justice reforms despite the potential consequences.
“Across the country, radical leftists are releasing violent criminals from jail — with little or no bail — only to see them commit yet more violent crimes,” Mr. Cruz said. “This horrific mass murder is the latest example. And it was fully preventable.”
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after being elected in 2007, Mr. Chisholm discussed being a proponent of keeping nonviolent criminals out of the traditional criminal justice system and instead diverting them to other types of programs, such as drug treatment facilities.
“Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into [a] treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody?” Mr. Chisholm reportedly said. “You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”
National Police Association spokesperson Betsy Brantner Smith told The Washington Times on Tuesday, “It’s no secret that Chisholm ran for office on a platform of ‘restorative justice.’”
“Because of lowered bail amounts and drastically reduced criminal prosecutions, the Milwaukee County Jail population has been greatly reduced, allowing dangerous criminals to return to the streets of Wisconsin to potentially victimize innocent citizens,” Ms. Brantner Smith said.
The retired police sergeant added that Mr. Chisholm “has failed miserably to protect the victims of people like Mr. Brooks” and that the association hopes his internal investigation will lead to “drastic” police change.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.