One person was killed and another was injured at the Wilton Manors Pride parade in Florida after a man crashed a pickup truck into members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The incident Saturday night is suspected to be an accident, but authorities are investigating all possible avenues before releasing an official statement.
The suspect, who slammed into a crowd before the Wilton Manors Pride parade began, was a member of the community, according to Justin Knight, the president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. “Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was part of the Chorus family,” Knight said through a spokesperson.
He continued, explaining that “to my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community. We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.” The victims, both males, were taken to Broward Health Medical Center and one was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other victim is expected to survive his injuries.
The Pride parade near Miami was about to start when the man, who drove a white pickup truck, plowed through two members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride parade participants and many disheartened people around the country are wondering what happened, and if the incident was intentional.
Chris Caputo, a city commissioner in Wilton Manors, was quick to respond on Twitter, saying that it was “increasingly probable it was an accident.” Police took the man responsible into custody, but no charges have been filed. However, Dean Trantalis, the Fort Lauderdale mayor, was not convinced it was accidental. They described the event as a deliberate attack on the LGBTQ community.
The Wilton Manors Pride parade was officially canceled after the tragic incident, though many still participated in the walk. “Unofficially, we still walked through the parade because we weren’t going to let anything stop our pride from being expressed,” 25-year-old Joey Spears admitted, who witnessed the truck drive through the crowd.
Spears described what he saw, saying “all of a sudden I see this truck peel out and just going through the people.” He then explained that police cornered a group of participants in the local high school parking lot, including Spears, to leave room for first responders and authorities. An hour later, they were released, and Joey Spears and many others decided to walk.
In a tweet, Spears posted a video of the aftermath, with one victim lying on the floor. A separate picture of the event, from WPLG, showed police escorting the man, who was dressed in pride clothing, into a police vehicle. Authorities have not identified the man, and a possible motive has not yet been described.
A report by CBS Miami claimed the driver told police that his foot was stuck between the gas pedal and the brake, which made him lose control of the vehicle. The individual was driving a pickup truck that carried a rainbow-colored Pride flag, and the vehicle was lined up with other floats at around 7 p.m., just before the incident.
“The truck revved up real fast and just took off,” one parade-goer explained. The vehicle crashed into the crowd, narrowly avoiding a convertible that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was riding in. One theory, purported by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who was attending the Pride parade, supposes that the driver was trying to hit the Democratic Congresswoman.
“This is exactly what it is. Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person. Luckily they missed that person, but unfortunately, they hit two other people,” Trantalis claimed. The mayor also said that the man “was screaming vulgarities,” though this claim wasn’t corroborated by authorities.
Wasserman Schultz was visibly disheartened by the event, and pictures show her crying at the scene. She said in a statement that she was “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost.” She continued, saying that “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
The Pride parade, which many proceeded to march in, was officially canceled. In a tweet by Wilton Manors Police Department, it was announced that “due to a tragic event, the Stonewall Pride Parade has been canceled but the festival events will continue.”