GoFundMe quickly took down a crowdfunding campaign set up to raise $5 million to bail out Waukesha, Wisconsin, parade suspect Darrell Brooks.
Brooks, 39, allegedly drove his SUV through a crowded holiday parade in Waukesha over the weekend—resulting in six deaths and dozens of injuries. He was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide and bail was set at $5 million. Shortly later, someone claiming to know Brooks personally set up the crowdfunding campaign.
A GoFundMe spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek in a Thursday email that the fundraiser had been taken down before any money had been contributed. “The fundraiser organizer has also been banned from using the GoFundMe platform for any future fundraisers,” the spokesperson explained.
“Fundraisers with misuse are very rare, and we take all complaints very seriously. Our team works with law enforcement to report issues and assists them in any investigations they deem necessary,” the spokesperson added.
“Immediately following news reports, GoFundMe mobilized its crisis response team and began monitoring the platform for fundraisers related to this event.”
The person who started the crowdfunding campaign, which was first reported by Law Enforcement Today on Tuesday, said there name was James Norton. The individual said they knew Brooks personally and argued that he was being mistreated by the justice system.
“As someone who knows Darrell personally I can tell you that he would NEVER do such a thing and I know he is innocent of what he was charged with,” Norton wrote. He continued, saying that Brooks could become “another black man behind bars in a purely political and racist trial.”
“There is no excuse for this continued treatment of black Americans by prosecutors around the country, everyone must be presumed innocent until proven guilty and we ask that he be treated equally as anyone else in this country would be treated and he should be released until found guilty,” Norton wrote.
Brooks was actually already out of jail after posting $1,000 bail. The suspect had been arrested earlier in November for allegedly attempting to run over his child’s mother with a vehicle at a gas station. Many have expressed outrage that Brooks was able to get out of jail with a relatively low bail—allowing him to then go and wreak havoc on the Waukesha parade.
Although five people initially died after the vehicle crashed through a weekend parade, a sixth victim died due to his injuries on Tuesday. That victim was 8-year-old Jackson Sparks who was hospitalized after the incident, but he succumbed to brain injuries he suffered from the attack.
Separately, a GoFundMe campaign for the Sparks family has garnered nearly $420,000. The families’ other 12-year-old son Tucker Sparks remains hospitalized with a fractured skull.