Grieving relatives of those injured and killed when a man drove through a Christmas parade near Milwaukee last year confronted the driver with anger and tears on Tuesday during the first day of a two-day sentencing hearing.
The driver, Darrell Brooks, 40, faces life in prison after a circuit court jury in Waukesha, Wisconsin, found him guilty on Oct. 26 of 76 criminal charges, including six counts of intentional homicide.
Brooks was accused of deliberately driving his sport utility vehicle through police barricades last November and plowing into crowds of people participating in the annual parade in Waukesha, about 15 miles (25 km) west of downtown Milwaukee.
The sentencing hearing began on Tuesday morning when relatives of those killed and injured along with victims who survived the incident told the court about their loved ones and confronted Brooks, who wore orange prison clothing and a surgical mask over his nose and mouth as he sat at a courtroom table.
“Our family is forever changed. We are hurt, angry, traumatized and broken,” said Sheri Sparks, whose 8-year-old son Jackson was killed and her other son Tucker was injured in the attack.
“I feel gutted and broken. It hurts to breathe sometimes,” she added through tears. “This man not only took Jackson away from our family, he violently ripped Jackson out of our lives.”
Jackson Sparks was the youngest person killed in the attack. The oldest was 81 years old. More than 60 others were injured, including at least 18 children. Among the casualties were members of a dance troupe known as the Dancing Grannies.
At least 36 people were expected to make statements during the hearing. Brooks, a Milwaukee resident who represented himself during the three-week trial, told the court last month that he expected about 20 people to speak on his behalf, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The sentencing hearing will conclude on Wednesday when Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow is expected to sentence Brooks to a mandatory term of life in a prison for each count of homicide.
On numerous occasions during the proceedings, Dorow admonished Brooks for failing to follow court rules and arguing with her. She removed Brooks from the courtroom several times, sending him to another room where he watched the proceedings.
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