A driver slammed into spectators at the beginning of a Pride parade in South Florida on Saturday, killing one man and seriously injuring another. The two men struck by the pickup truck “were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where one was pronounced deceased,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Department detective Ali Adamson at a Saturday night press conference. After much speculation, it was revealed the driver was a 77-year-old member of a men’s chorus group who appears to have unintentionally hit other members of the group.
At first witnesses said the crash at the Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival in Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale looked intentional and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis publicly said that “this was a terrorist attack on the LGBTQ community.” When asked whether he thought it could be an accident, he was categorical: “Hardly an accident. It was deliberate. It was premeditated,” he added. But then the president of Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, Justin Knight, sent a statement to media outlets contradicting that characterization. “Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was also a part of the Chorus family,” Knight said. “To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community.” Police detained a man wearing a Gay Men’s Chorus T-shirt. Some witnesses said the driver told police that it was an accident.
On Sunday, Tratalis released a statement walking back his earlier claim that it was an attack. “I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me … I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he said. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.” Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli also said the “early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident.”
Police said the FBI is helping the investigation and insisted they are still analyzing the situation. “We are evaluating all possibilities,” Adamson said. “Nothing is out of the question.” The people who were hit were standing near the car in which Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was riding. “I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she tweeted. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
*This article has been updated with new information since it was first published.