MILWAUKEE — The violence starts at home. Then it spills out to the public.

The 39-year-old Milwaukee man charged in the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack, which left six people dead and more than 60 injured, had a history of domestic violence and violence against women.

Advocates for domestic abuse survivors and experts say that it is a worrying pattern they have seen in many mass casualty incidents.

“Domestic violence — family violence — predicts mass shootings,” said Karin Tyler, the injury and violence prevention coordinator for the city of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention.  

According to a 2020 Bloomberg analysis, nearly 60% of 749 mass shooters between 2014 and 2019 were domestic violence victims or perpetrated by men who have a history domestic violence. A peer-reviewed academic study released earlier this year had a similar finding: About 59% of the 110 mass shootings analyzed were related to domestic violence.

“Not all domestic abusers are this type of abuser, but in almost every mass shooting or mass killing, the person who committed it had a link to some sort of violence in their intimate partner relationships,” said Carmen Pitre, president and chief executive of Sojourner Family Peace Center, a nonprofit that provides domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Wisconsin.

Although studies have focused on domestic abuse and mass shootings — not vehicle attacks — the connection is still relevant, said Sara Krall, director for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin’s homicide prevention program.

“It’s the same dynamic,” she said, “and clearly this perpetrator had shown previously that his vehicle was being used to perpetrate harm against his partner, still a weapon.”

Earlier this month, the parade suspect was charged with driving over a woman during a domestic dispute, sending her to the hospital and leaving tire marks on her pant leg. According to police, the woman thought that the man was trying kill her.

He was released on $1,000 bail Nov. 16 — five days before authorities say he plowed through the Waukesha Christmas Parade. He has since been charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the parade attack and officials expect to file more charges against him, including for a sixth death. 

Authorities don’t know exactly what occurred before the driver ran through the barricades, and started plowing through the parade. Waukesha’s chief police officer stated that the driver had been in an “domestic disorder” just minutes earlier, but did not go into detail.

Krall stated that studies have shown mass shootings often occur after “explosive events.”

“Perpetrators may be experiencing heightened anger due to the current situation and could, unfortunately, spread the violence on others.” she stated.

Shawn Muhammad, the associate director of The Asha Project which provides services for African American women in Milwaukee said that he was not surprised to find out about the suspects history of domestic violence.

“When I see violent crimes one of the first things I look for is, I look to see if there is a history of domestic violence. “There’s an inherent interconnectedness between domestic violence and homicides,” he explained. So I am not shocked and I don’t find it surprising at all.

Waukesha’s effectNational safety is being hampered by a surge of weaponized vehicles that plow into crowds.

Domestic violence: It could be made public within an hour

Experts agreed that the event was extremely distressing for both victims and survivors of domestic abuse and those who lost or were injured.

“Our attention is with all who are in shock, mourning, and grief — especially victims and survivors of domestic violence who are finding this time to be particularly challenging as details have emerged about the suspect having a history of domestic abuse,” said Monique Minkens, director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, in a statement this week. 

Minkens stated that it is common for people to use violence to their former or current partners to become violent on a greater scale.

That’s just one reason why everyone should be concerned about domestic abuse, said Natalie Hayden, a domestic violence prevention advocate and co-founder of EXPOSED, a podcast about life after domestic abuse.

Everyone should consider domestic violence seriously. It’s everywhere. You can see it at work, in your car, in public places. It could be anywhere, even in your private space. 

When Hayden was in the process of leaving an abusive partner, she was working at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee. She changed her shift schedule and notified her employer of her former partner’s description and car.

“I had no choice but to alert them,” she stated. “I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

Muhammad said men have to be part of the effort to end domestic abuse.

Muhammad stated that many people are suffering from extreme anger or aggression. This is usually learned behavior. Sometimes it is mental illness mixed with learned behavior.

Experts say violence is a natural part of life unless interrupted.

Individual efforts can be made, for example by reaching out to family members or friends who are involved in abuse. It also means a focus on societal efforts, like having community supports for victims and treatment for abusers, holding people accountable in the criminal justice system and focusing resources on the cases which show the highest likelihood of lethal violence.

The first step in addressing the issue is to make ordinary citizens aware.

Pitre explained that “domestic violence is a predictable offense.” Pitre said that Sunday’s events were unpredicted. Nobody could have predicted that he would turn out to be such a brutal mass killer. That’s the piece that is shocking and stunning.

“But he had shown in other instances that he was using violence,” she said. “We know that violence will continue repeat in people’s lives until they get held accountable or there some sort of healing.”


Domestic violence can cause you to be a victim. the National Domestic Violence Hotline You can speak with unrestricted advocates online, or over the phone. This is recommended for anyone who suspects that their internet activity may be being tracked by an abuser. These advocates can assist survivors in creating a safety plan for their family.

Safe Horizon’s hotlineProvides crisis counselling, safety planning and help finding shelters at 800-621-HOPE (4633) It has a chat feature where you can reach out for help from a computer or phone confidentially. 

The survivors can contact the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s 24/7 English/Spanish hotlineGet support by calling 212-714-1141. If calling is not safe, but email is possible, make a report at and leave safe contact information, and someone will reach out.

Find local resources for Wisconsin here 

  • Send us a text Sojourner Family Peace Center 24-hour confidential domestic violence hotline at 414-877-8100 or call 414-933-2722. 
  • Milwaukee Women’s Center also offers a hotline at 414-671-6140.
  • The Asha ProjectThe, which provides services for African American women living in Milwaukee, offers a crisis phone line at (414-252-0075).
  • Resources for Waukesha County Women’s Center offers a hotline at 262-542-3828.

Ashley Luthern can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @aluthern.



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