Wilton Manors, FL – The Fort Lauderdale mayor announced that “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community” had occurred just moments after a truck ran through the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus at a pride parade on Saturday, but it turned out he had jumped to conclusions and it was all just an accident.
The incident occurred at about 7 p.m. on June 19 during the Stonewall Pride Parade on Wilton Drive near 16th Street in Wilton Manors, WPLG reported.
Witnesses reported that as the floats were lining up at the start of the parade, a white pickup truck suddenly plowed through a group of Gay Men’s Chorus members that were standing in front of the vehicle.
Police said that driver continued across the street and crashed into a fence at a plant nursery.
The driver – a 77-year-old man wearing a Gay Men’s Chorus t-shirt – was taken into custody at the scene, WPLG reported.
The victims were transported to Broward Health Medical Center for treatment.
One man was pronounced dead at the hospital, WPLG reported.
The other victim was expected to survive his injuries.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told WPLG shortly after the crash that the truck had missed the car that U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) was riding in “by inches”
Trantalis, without having any information and before the victims had even been removed from the scene, declared it a deliberate attempted attack on Wasserman-Schultz.
“This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” Trantalis told WPLG. “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.”
BREAKING: At least 2 people have been hit by a truck at the beginning of the @WiltonManorsCty #Pride parade. @delarosaWPLG was only yards away at the time. He spoke with @DeanTrantalis. @WPLGLocal10 pic.twitter.com/CRRmGz0a12
— Ian Margol (@IanMargolWPLG) June 19, 2021
But it turned out that the mayor was completely wrong, and it had all been a tragic accident.
The driver and the victims were all part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, a group made up of about 25 older men, WJXT reported.
Police said that the floats were lining up to go and someone told the 77-year-old driver of the white pickup truck it was his turn.
That was when he accelerated directly into the people standing in front of him.
Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli said he was on the float that was right in front of the group of people who were hit, WJXT reported.
Rolli described the scene as confused and chaotic.
“People were really distraught and some people were crying,” Rolli explained. “I was getting phone calls from people I knew at the other end waiting for the parade saying, ‘Is this true? Is that true, do we have anything to worry about?’ You don’t know at that point.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus sought to quash rumors that there had been anything nefarious about what happened and called it “an unfortunate accident,” WJXT reported.
“Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver is also a part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight said in a statement Sunday.
Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale’s first openly-gay mayor, posted a tweet on Sunday that sought to explain his bizarre reaction to what was ultimately found to be a traffic wreck by claiming the incident “terrorized me and all around me.”
My statement following yesterday's events in Wilton Manors is below.
I want to thank our first responders for their efforts as police and medical personnel immediately attended to the scene. pic.twitter.com/lahwAQPO3C
— Mayor Dean J. Trantalis (@DeanTrantalis) June 20, 2021
Police did not arrest the driver but said the incident was under investigation in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and that they were “considering and evaluating all possibilities,” WJXT reported.