More than 20 people were injured on Sunday after the driver of an S.U.V. plowed into a holiday parade in downtown Waukesha, Wis., the city’s police chief said.
Chief Daniel Thompson of the Waukesha police said at a news conference on Sunday night that the S.U.V. came through the parade route just before 4:40 p.m. local time. A “suspect vehicle” had been secured, he said, and the scene was safe.
“It was a tragic incident, very chaotic,” Chief Thompson said. It was not immediately clear if anyone was in custody.
A witness, Kaylee Staral, a resident of Waukesha, just west of Milwaukee, was at the parade with her mother and stepfather. She said they were standing at the curb outside a store when a red S.U.V. came barreling down the street in the middle of the parade.
Ms. Staral, 20, who is an intern with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said it was a moment of fight or flight as some spectators immediately fled the scene and others went into the street to help those who were hurt. She said many families with children sought shelter in stores.
Her mother went to help those who were injured, she said, but police officers soon came and told those who remained that there had been gunshots and directed people to seek safety inside stores.
Ms. Staral said that she had not heard gunfire but that people were injured. Information on the number and severity of the injuries was not immediately available. It was also unclear what became of the driver of the S.U.V.
“I think a lot of people are in shock right now,” Ms. Staral said. “It was scary.”
Tom Hickey, 25, was walking near a friend’s float at the back of the parade when he heard honking behind him.
A man wearing a sweatshirt and gray hat who was driving a red Ford Escape was trying to make his way through the crowd. Mr. Hickey said he thought the driver was lost.
Then, the driver took a right turn onto the main parade route, gunned the engine and moved through the parade route at what appeared to be top speed, he said.
“When he made that right turn, that’s when he turned really dangerous,” Mr. Hickey said. Amid screaming people and the roar of the car’s engine, Mr. Hickey also heard what he described as about five gunshots.
In a video posted on the city’s Facebook page, the S.U.V. can be seen speeding down the parade route and a few screams can be heard from those in the crowd.
Then, seconds later, a police officer runs down the parade route, followed by a number of police vehicles as a group of children in the parade stops performing.
In a Facebook post, the Waukesha Police Department asked residents to avoid the downtown area. The police also set up a family reunification location at the Waukesha Metro Center.
The parade route ran mostly along Main Street, and was set to end on Wisconsin Avenue near Cutler Park.
Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin said on Twitter that he and his wife were “praying for Waukesha tonight and all the kids, families, and community members affected by this senseless act.”
“I’m grateful for the first responders and folks who acted quickly to help, and we are in contact with local partners as we await more information,” he said.
Don Paul Browne, a city alderman, was marching in the parade with the mayor but had already left and did not witness what happened. He said the city was celebrating its 125th anniversary and residents were in especially good spirits because the parade was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
He described the parade as a family-friendly event that draws spectators from other counties. He struggled to understand what happened, he said, because there were no political undertones or controversy connected with the parade.
This is a developing story.
Dan Simmons and Vimal Patel contributed reporting.