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Rev. Pat Heppe says “there’s still pain and trauma” following sentencing in Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

November 17, 2022 – Waukesha/Washington Co., Wi – The sentencing of Darrell Brooks Jr. in Waukesha County Court took more than three hours Wednesday afternoon. Brooks was found guilty on all counts of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he plowed his SUV into the Waukesha Christmas Parade on November 21, 2021. Rev. Patrick Heppe, who had served three years at Holy Angels, was marching in the parade as part of four parishes in Waukesha; he was injured during the event and hospitalized after suffering a concussion.

Heppe spoke by phone today after the sentencing of Brooks.

Rev. Pat Heppe
Rev. Pat Heppe

“It’s freaky hearing your name on national TV,” said Heppe, sitting in his office across from St. William Catholic Church in Waukesha. The location is two blocks from the Waukesha Christmas parade route.

Heppe had been listening to the sentencing of Brooks and said even though the case was coming to a close, people involved are still suffering.

“My injuries were minor, but there is still pain and suffering here in Waukesha,” he said.

 

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“There’s a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. I don’t think we can say a lot more than that.

“It’s not over. We talked about that today at our staff meeting. We got people that are still in pain and going through some difficult times,” said Heppe.

The trial spanned several weeks in October; Heppe said he watched “bits and pieces.”

For the most part, he said, he’s put a “lot of it behind” him.

“But the whole trial has really brought out the pain and suffering of a lot of people in Waukesha,” said Heppe. “A lot of people have really come forward again and are articulating the pain.”

“I had been watching the judge, but just turned off the TV. You know, people have been traumatized and you can’t just discard trauma overnight.”

Heppe used the words “strange” and “surreal” to describe how he was feeling.

“It’s surreal is really what it is,” he said. “It’s surreal to realize that happened just a few blocks where I am. When the judge was calling the names during sentencing. The two names that were called before mine were two kids in school that I know really well; it’s just really, really strange.”

Heppe said the concussion he suffered was very minor compared to what people affected by the tragedy are experiencing. “Just walking with people at times like this is just painful,” he said.

The one-year anniversary of the tragedy is Monday, November 21. Heppe said he will be part of a remembrance at Cutler Park which will also include the Governor, mayor, fire chief and police chief.

“They’re going to sing the song ‘Stand by Me’ and that’s really what kind of defines what we’ve been working on; standing by each other.”

Heppe was reassigned by the Archdiocese in 2019, moving from Holy Angels Parish to the Catholic Community of Waukesha; that area includes parishes St. John Neumann, St. William, St. Mary and St. Joseph; Catholic Memorial High School and the Waukesha Catholic School System.

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