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Wisconsin senators warn in rare joint statement outsiders may try to exploit Waukesha tragedy for ‘political purposes’

By Ross Levitt and Daniella Diaz, CNN

In a rare joint statement, Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and Ron Johnson, a Republican, warned Saturday outsiders may be looking to exploit the tragedy that unfolded last weekend in Waukesha.

“It has come to our attention that outside individuals or groups may attempt to exploit the tragedy that occurred last Sunday in Waukesha for their own political purposes,” the statement said. “As the U.S. Senators representing Wisconsin, one from each political party, we are asking anyone considering such action to cease and desist.”

Six people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and more than 60 were injured after a driver rammed an SUV through a Christmas parade in downtown Waukesha last Sunday.

An 11-year-old who was injured was on a ventilator and fighting for her life. Nearly a week later, her mother shared in a medical update.

Jessalyn Torres is recovering from a broken pelvis, skull fracture and other injuries, according to one of two verified GoFundMe pages created to help the girl’s mother, Amber Kohnke. The young girl “needs more time to heal,” Kohnke said in the update on her daughter’s condition posted Saturday.

Prosecutors believe the driver was Darrell E. Brooks, 39, and they have charged him with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide and will consider a sixth homicide charge over the boy’s death.

The senators’ statement did not provide details about why they issued the warning, but said they both have “full confidence in the local officials who responded with extraordinary professionalism, competence, integrity and compassion.”

“They have many difficult duties to perform in the coming days, weeks, and months, and they should be afforded the respect and support they deserve to undertake their responsibilities without outside interference,” the senators’ statement said.

They added officials’ top priorities now are to “begin the healing process” and conduct a “thorough investigation and afford the accused full due process.”

“These will not be easy tasks, and will be made even more difficult if conducted within a politically charged atmosphere,” the statement said. “We ask everyone to demonstrate their interest and concern by praying for the victims, their families, and the entire community of Waukesha.”

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CNN’s Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.

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