Suspect in Wisconsin parade attack to appear in court as prosecutor prepares charges

By Brendan O’Brien and Julio-Cesar Chavez

WAUKESHA, Wis. (Reuters) – The motorist suspected of an attack at a traditional Christmas parade that killed five people and injured at least 48 near Milwaukee was set to face criminal charges on Tuesday at his first court appearance since the weekend rampage.

Darrell Brooks, 39, was due in Waukesha County Circuit Court at 4 p.m. CST (2200 GMT) after authorities said he deliberately drove an SUV through police barricades on Sunday and into the city of Waukesha’s annual parade, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Milwaukee.

Waukesha police Chief Daniel Thompson on Monday said his department would refer five counts of first-degree intentional homicide to prosecutors and additional charges could come later as the investigation progresses.

But Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper’s website said on Tuesday that her office was still deciding what charges to bring against Brooks, a Milwaukee resident arrested near the scene of the carnage shortly afterwards.

Police have ruled out terrorism as a motive and said Brooks, who was out on bail from a domestic abuse case, acted alone.

Police were not pursuing Brooks when he drove his car through the parade route, but one officer fired shots to try to stop the sport utility vehicle, Thompson said.

The injured included at least 18 children who suffered facial abrasions, broken bones and serious head injuries and were taken to Wisconsin Children’s hospital in Milwaukee. Six were listed in critical condition, officials said. At least two of the children were since discharged from the hospital.

The five casualties, who ranged in age from 52 to 81, included some members of the “Milwaukee Dancing Grannies” parade group.

“Our hearts are heavy over the loss of our grannies and volunteer,” the group said on Facebook on Tuesday, adding some of the injured members were in stable condition and one has been released from a hospital.

The incident drew the attention of President Joe Biden, who called the attack “horrific,” and Pope Francis. The Vatican sent a condolence message to the Roman Catholic bishop of Milwaukee on Tuesday.

“The pope “commends the souls of those who died to almighty God’s loving mercy and implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved,” the message said.

At one of several vigils and services on Monday, Jeremy Wittig, 39, an information technology professional, said “Waukesha is strong. That’s why we are out here.”

Video of the incident posted on social media showed a red SUV racing alongside the parade route and then into the procession, appearing to run over more than a dozen people before bystanders raced from sidewalks to help.

“I saw children who were run over,” Brian Hoffman, 33, a Waukesha resident, recounted on Monday. “I am still totally shocked.”

Brooks was last released from custody after posting $1,000 cash bond on Nov. 11, an amount the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said was “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges” against him.

Brooks had been charged on Nov. 5 with obstructing an officer, battery, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping in a domestic abuse case, prosecutors and state court records show.

Shortly before Sunday’s attack on the parade, police received a domestic disturbance complaint involving Brooks and a knife, Thompson said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Julio Cesar-Chavez in Waukesha, Wisconsin; Writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Howard Goller)

Driver to face homicide charges for deaths at Wisconsin Christmas parade

By Brendan O’Brien and Cheney Orr

WAUKESHA, Wis. (Reuters) -Authorities will charge a 39-year-old man with multiple counts of homicide for driving into a crowded Christmas parade in Wisconsin, killing five, as he fled the scene of an earlier domestic disturbance, police said on Monday.

Police in Waukesha, a small city roughly 20 miles (32 km) west of Milwaukee, say they do not know what caused Darrell E. Brooks, a resident of Milwaukee, to drive into the crowd, injuring 48, including two children in critical condition.

“He drove right through the barricades and the officers,” Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson told a briefing, adding the incident was not related to terrorism. Police were not pursuing Brooks when he plowed into the parade, he said.

“Minutes after the incident occurred, I responded to the scene,” Thompson said. “And what I saw out of chaos and tragedy was heroes — first responders in the community coming together and working together on triaging victims.”

Police identified the five victims as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

A police officer opened fire at the suspect but had to stop for the safety of bystanders, Thompson said.

On the morning after Sunday’s carnage, a pink hat, a lone shoe and candy lay strewn across the main thoroughfare in Waukesha.

Dozens of orange evidence circles were painted on the street and most shops were closed in the city’s downtown district. A woman tied a bouquet of flowers to a street post as police officers blocked intersections along the main road.

The FBI is assisting local police in their investigation.

Brooks was previously charged with restricting or obstructing an officer, bail jumping and battery. A $1,000 cash bond was posted earlier this month, according to a statement by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office.

“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,” read the statement, which said the office was conducting an internal investigation.

‘STILL TOTALLY SHOCKED’

“It was terrifying,” said Waukesha resident Brian Hoffman, 33, who was present as the vehicle rammed through parade attendees.

“I saw children who were ran over,” Hoffman said sitting on a stoop near the scene that was still blocked off by police. “I am still totally shocked.”

The Children’s Wisconsin hospital officials said at a briefing they treated 18 children, including six who remained in critical condition and three in serious condition on Monday.

The rest were in fair condition or released. The hospital made no mention of any fatalities.

Among the victims were members of a group of “Dancing Grannies,” according to a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.

“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed…..(with the) joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue….(that) held us together,” read the message posted on the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies Facebook page. “Our hearts are heavy at this most difficult time.”

Schools will remain closed on Monday and additional counselors will be available for students, the district superintendent of schools said. Waukesha authorities said a fund for the affected families had been set up.

U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration was monitoring the situation in Waukesha “very closely.”

“The entire community is struggling, struggling to cope with these horrific acts of violence,” Biden told reporters on Monday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Cheney Orr in Waukesha, Wisconsin; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely and Tyler Clifford in New York; Mark Hosenball, Katharine Jackson and Christopher Gallagher in Washington; and Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Writing by Maria Caspani; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Jury acquits U.S. teen shooter Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges

By Nathan Layne

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) -A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday on all charges relating to his fatal shooting of two men and wounding of a third with a semi-automatic rifle during chaotic 2020 racial justice protests in Wisconsin, determining that the teenager acted in self-defense.

A 12-member jury found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering safety during street protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on Aug. 25, 2020 in the working-class city of Kenosha.

Rittenhouse broke down sobbing after the verdict, which came shortly after the judge warned the courtroom to remain silent or be removed.

The teenager’s trial polarized America, highlighting gaping divisions in U.S. society around contentious issues like gun rights.

Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and fired a bullet that tore a chunk off the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28.

In reaching their verdicts after more than three days of deliberations, the jury contended with dueling narratives from the defense and prosecution that offered vastly different portrayals of the teenager’s actions on the night of the shootings.

The defense argued that Rittenhouse had been repeatedly attacked and had shot the men in fear for his life. They said he was a civic-minded teenager who had been in Kenosha to protect private property after several nights of unrest in the city south of Milwaukee.

The unrest followed the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake, who was left paralyzed from the waist down.

The prosecution portrayed Rittenhouse as a reckless vigilante who provoked the violent encounters and showed no remorse for the men he shot with his AR-15-style rifle.

Live-streamed and dissected by cable TV pundits daily, the trial unfolded during a time of social and political polarization in the United States. Gun rights are cherished by many Americans and are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution even as the nation experiences a high rate of gun violence and the easy availability of firearms.

Rittenhouse, who testified that he had no choice but to open fire to protect himself, is viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favor expansive gun rights and consider the shootings justified. Many on the left view Rittenhouse as a vigilante and an embodiment of an out-of-control American gun culture.

Protests against racism and police brutality turned violent in many U.S. cities after the police killing of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis three months before the Kenosha shootings.

With so much of that night in Kenosha caught on cellphone and surveillance video, few basic facts were in dispute. The trial instead focused on whether Rittenhouse acted reasonably to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm,” the requirement for using deadly force under Wisconsin law.

The prosecution, led by Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, sought to paint Rittenhouse as the aggressor and noted he was the only one to kill anyone that night.

FULL METAL JACKET

Rittenhouse’s gun was loaded with 30 rounds of full metal jacket bullets, which are designed to penetrate their target. The jury saw a series of graphic videos, including the moments after Rittenhouse fired four rounds into Rosenbaum, who lay motionless, bleeding and groaning. Other video showed Grosskreutz screaming, with blood gushing from his arm.

Rittenhouse testified in his own defense last Wednesday in the trial’s most dramatic moment – a risky decision by his lawyers given his youth and the prospect of tough prosecution cross-examination. Rittenhouse broke down sobbing at one point but emphasized that he fired upon the men only after being attacked.

“I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me,” he said.

Rittenhouse testified that he shot Huber after he had struck him with a skateboard and pulled on his weapon. He said he fired on Grosskreutz after the man pointed the pistol he was carrying at the teenager – an assertion Grosskreutz acknowledged under questioning from the defense. Rittenhouse testified that he shot Rosenbaum after the man chased him and grabbed his gun.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Editing by Ross Colvin, Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

Canada formally invokes 1977 pipeline treaty with U.S. over Line 5 dispute

By Nia Williams and Sebastien Malo

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) -Canada on Monday formally invoked a 1977 treaty with the United States to request negotiations over Enbridge Inc’s Line 5 pipeline, escalating a long-running dispute over one of Canada’s major oil export pipelines.

Line 5 ships 540,000 barrels per day of crude and refined products from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario, but the state of Michigan wants it shut down over worries that a leak could develop in a four-mile section running beneath the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.

Enbridge ignored Michigan’s order to halt operations earlier this year. The sides are embroiled in a legal battle, and took part in court-ordered mediation. The government of Canada has been pushing counterparts in the United States to intervene to help keep the pipeline open.

In a letter to the federal judge presiding over the case, Gordon Giffin, legal counsel for the Canadian government, said Canada had formally invoked Article Six of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty.

The treaty, designed to stop U.S. or Canadian public officials from impeding the flow of oil in transit, has never been invoked before.

Canada’s foreign ministry and the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Enbridge spokeswoman Tracy Larsson said Michigan had let parties know it is not committed to further mediation.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of ‘Team Canada’ – from the Government of Canada to the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan for their commitments and efforts to keep Line 5 open,” she said in an email.

(Additonal reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by David Gregorio)

Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases

By Mrinalika Roy

(Reuters) -At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a large new government study showed, pointing to the presence of the virus in the country as early as December 2019.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Of the seven samples, three were from Illinois, where the first confirmed coronavirus case was reported on Jan. 24, while the remaining four states had one case each. Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8.

The data suggests that the coronavirus was circulating in U.S. states far from the initial hotspots and areas that were considered the virus’ points of entry into the country, the study noted.

The data also backs a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the virus may have been circulating in the United States well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The United States has so far reported 33.6 million cases, according to a Reuters tally.

The infections were confirmed using two antibody tests, which were granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Teachers may play role in in-school COVID-19 transmission: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – Teachers may play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19 within schools, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday, citing a study conducted in elementary schools in a Georgia school district.

The report comes after researchers from the agency last month said there was little evidence that schools were spreading COVID-19 infections in the country – based in part on a study of schools in Wisconsin – easing concerns about allowing in-person learning. The Wisconsin study found significantly lower virus spread within schools compared with transmission in the surrounding communities.

An investigation involving about 2,600 students and 700 staff members of a Georgia school district’s elementary schools showed nine clusters of COVID-19 cases involving 13 educators and 32 students at six elementary schools, the CDC said.

Of these, two clusters involved probable teacher-to-teacher transmission that was followed by teacher-to-student transmission in classrooms, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Transmission from teachers resulted in about half of 31 school-related cases, according to the investigation.

The study was subject to some limitations including difficulty in determining whether coronavirus transmission happened in school or out in the local community, the agency noted.

Distinguishing between the two types of transmission was particularly challenging when the 7-day average number of cases per 100,000 persons exceeded 150, the agency said.

The CDC said COVID-19 vaccination of educators should be considered as an additional mitigation measure to be added when available, although not required for reopening schools.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Trump and 17 states back Texas bid at Supreme Court

By Jan Wolfe and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him join a lawsuit by Texas seeking to throw out the voting results in four states, litigation that also drew support from 17 other states.

In a separate brief, lawyers for 17 states led by Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt also urged the nine justices to hear the Texas lawsuit.

Trump on Wednesday vowed to intervene in the lawsuit though he did not provide details on the nature of the intervention including whether it would be by presidential campaign or the U.S. Justice Department.

Writing on Twitter, Trump said, “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday by the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, targeted four states.

In addition to Missouri, the states joining Texas were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

The lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court rather than with a lower court, as is permitted for certain litigation between states.

The Texas suit argued that changes made by the four states to voting procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic to expand mail-in voting were unlawful. Texas asked the Supreme Court to immediately block the four states from using the voting results to appoint presidential electors to the Electoral College.

Texas also asked the Supreme Court to delay the Dec. 14 date for Electoral College votes to be formally cast, a date set by law in 1887.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Will Dunham)

Judge rules probable cause U.S. teenager committed crimes in Wisconsin protest shootings

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – A judge ruled on Thursday there was probable cause that U.S. teenager Kyle Rittenhouse committed felonies in fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third during protests in Wisconsin over the summer, clearing one of the final hurdles before trial.

The shootings occurred in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin amid civil unrest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said he was helping protect property and that he acted in self defense.

Rittenhouse, 17, was charged with first-degree homicide and five other criminal counts related to the shootings, in which Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed and Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded. The charges also include two lesser charges for illegal possession of a weapon by a minor and for allegedly endangering the safety of journalist Richard McGinnis.

Loren Keating, a Kenosha County judicial court commissioner, on Thursday denied a motion by Rittenhouse’s lawyer to dismiss the two lesser charges and said the evidence was sufficient for the case to go to trial.

“I do find the state has demonstrated probable cause that in this case felonies were committed relating to the counts in the complaint,” Keating said at a preliminary hearing, advancing the prosecution’s case another step towards trial.

Rittenhouse was extradited in late October from his home state of Illinois to Kenosha to face the charges. Rittenhouse, who has become a cause celebre of sorts for the political right, posted $2 million bail after a public fundraising campaign.

Rittenhouse’s legal team have said their client feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle on Aug. 25 in Kenosha. Cellphone videos from the night show chaotic scenes, including one where Rittenhouse is chased and falls down before his encounter with Huber and Grosskreutz, who had a handgun.

In questioning of a detective testifying for the state on Thursday, Richards appeared to offer a preview of the likely defense.

“In your investigation and looking at all the hours of videos did you ever see Kyle act inappropriate towards somebody who was not threatening him with a firearm,” Richards asked, before Keating sustained an objection to the question.

“Mr. Richards, here’s the key: you have an opportunity at trial,” Keating said.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump campaign challenges election results in Wisconsin Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump campaign said it filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Wisconsin’s results in the 2020 presidential election in the state’s Supreme Court, the latest in a series of legal challenges to the Nov. 3 election.

“Today’s suit includes four cases with clear evidence of unlawfulness, such as illegally altering absentee ballot envelopes, counting ballots that had no required application, overlooking unlawful claims of indefinite confinement, and holding illegal voting events called Democracy in the Park,” the campaign said in a statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul)

U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears quarter million as infection rates soar

By Gabriella Borter and Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States approached 250,000 on Wednesday, the day after the country recorded the highest number of victims in nearly four months, a chilling sign for a healthcare system already struggling to cope.

On Tuesday, the pandemic claimed 1,596 lives in the United States, more than on any single day since July 27, contributing to a total of 248,898 confirmed deaths since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters tally.

For weeks, health officials and healthcare workers have warned that hospitals in all regions could soon become overwhelmed, with widespread community transmission of the virus evident in many places.

“I’m the most concerned I’ve been since this pandemic started,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told CNN on Wednesday.

Nationwide, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 topped 75,000 on Tuesday, setting a new record. The Midwest has become the epicenter, reporting almost a half-million cases in the week ending on Monday. In Wisconsin, 90.6% of Intensive Care Unit beds were occupied as of Wednesday, state data showed.

Forty-one U.S. states have reported daily record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, 20 have registered new all-time highs in coronavirus-related deaths from day to day, and 26 have reported new peaks in hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.

Government officials in at least 18 states, representing both sides of the U.S. political divide, have issued sweeping new public health mandates this month. These range from stricter limits on social gatherings and non-essential businesses to new requirements for wearing masks in public places.

Even officials who initially bristled at the idea of the government imposing social restrictions have changed tune as the virus has spread.

In South Dakota, about 2% of residents currently have COVID-19, according to state data. The city of Sioux Falls voted to institute a mask mandate on Tuesday night, a week after Mayor Paul TenHaken voted the mandate down. TenHaken shifted to supporting the ordinance after the South Dakota State Medical Association urged the city council to mandate masks. State Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has continued to oppose government restrictions to curb COVID-19.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday called the wave of new restrictions an overreach by state and local officials.

“The American people know how to protect their health,” she told Fox News in an interview. “We don’t lose our freedom in this country. We make responsible health decisions as individuals.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Maria Caspani; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)