By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — A month ago today, Melissa Coello and Leanne Hollingsworth nearly lost their daughters in the Waukesha Christmas Day Parade massacre.
They have a lot of questions for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and the people who set free Darrell Brooks Jr., the man suspected of mowing down scores of parade-goers, killing six and injuring 60 more.
Milwaukee County citizens on Friday filed an official complaint asking Gov. Tony Evers to investigate Chisholm on charges of “dereliction of duty.”
“I think it’s long overdue,” said Coello, whose daughter, Samantha, was critically injured in the rampage. She doesn’t understand why the law demands a complaint come from the people of the DA’s presiding county when the massacre occurred in Waukesha and so many of the victims were from Waukesha County.
Evers’ office refused to answer Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment on Monday. The office did tell other media sources that the governor had received the complaint but had yet to review it. Perhaps it’s not a priority for the governor. Sources say the complaint was hand-delivered late Friday afternoon. On Monday morning, a digital copy was sent to the governor’s office.
Orville Seymer, a Milwaukee County conservative activist, is one of the signers of the complaint and accompanying affidavit.
Coello, who watched her 14-year-old daughter begin painful and exhausting physical therapy Monday, is understandably mad.
“They didn’t do their job, and now we suffer from their actions, or lack thereof,” she said of Chisholm’s office.
Chisholm himself has acknowledged that $1,000 bail for Brooks just days before he is accused of driving his SUV into the parade was “inappropriately low.” Brooks, with a long and violent rap sheet, had been in jail on charges of running over the mother of his child, recklessly endangering safety. He was released months before on $500 bail after being charged with a gun-related crime. He’s still awaiting trial on those felony charges.
Chisholm blamed human error for the low bail recommendation, insisting his young and overworked assistant district attorney did not have access to a report on Brooks’ criminal background.
But Hollingsworth, whose daughter Kenzie also was critically injured and spent 12 days in the hospital, doesn’t understand why the prosecutor couldn’t have done what anyone with the Internet could do: track Brooks’ criminal record on Wisconsin’s online court database.
“It’s unfortunate it took a formal complaint for the governor to take the initiative to investigate something as deadly as this was,” said Hollingsworth, whose other daughter suffered minor injuries. The girls were on a local dance team performing in the parade.
Evers for weeks has hidden behind the law, saying he couldn’t launch an investigation until he received a verified complaint from a Milwaukee County resident.
Now, the mothers of two girls badly and unnecessarily injured allegedly by a man who should have been behind bars want answers to some critical questions:
- Who approved Chisholm’s lax bail policies?
- What prevented the Milwaukee County DAs office from getting the appropriate information in a reasonable amount of time prior to a decision on the bail amount for Brooks?
- Why didn’t the judge question the low bail amount?
- What can be changed to prevent and avoid issues like this in the future?
- If Milwaukee County can’t keep up with the influx of cases, why has this lax bail policy been allowed to continue? This is not the first incident under Chisholm’s policy that has resulted in the death of another individual who was released on a low bond amount.
- Why wasn’t Brooks being monitored more? Where was his monitoring bracelet?
- Where is the court reported transcript from the bail hearing since the recording was “lost”? Why wasn’t this verified immediately during or after the bail hearing?
The moms certainly are not satisfied with Chisholm’s internal investigation that offered more excuses than answers.
More than anything, they want accountability. They want justice.
“I don’t want money, I want policy changes,” Hollingsworth said.