WILTON MANORS, Fla. – One man was killed and another injured when they were run over by a pickup truck as the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors was just getting started Saturday night.
The white pickup truck was lined up with other floats when it accelerated and ran over two men standing by to take part in the parade around 7 p.m. on Wilton Drive near 16th Street, as Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa witnessed.
Police took the man who was driving the truck into custody and were questioning him. He was wearing a Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus t-shirt.
Justin Knight, the chorus’ president, said through a spokesman that chorus members were the ones injured and that the driver was “part of the Chorus family.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” Knight said in a statement. “Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver was also a part of the Chorus family. 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.”
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Witnesses said the driver could be heard telling police it was an accident.
Asked if the driver was being charged, or if he might have been under the influence, Fort Lauderdale Police Det. Ali Adamson would only say that they are talking to the driver as they continue their investigation. The FBI was joining the investigation Saturday night.
First responders rushed in to help the victims, who were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead. The other victim is expected to survive, Adamson said.
Their names have not yet been released.
The truck narrowly missed hitting U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was in a convertible participating in the parade.
“I am deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost and others seriously injured at tonight’s Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “My staff, volunteers and I are, thankfully, safe. I want to thank our first responders for their heroic efforts as both police and emergency medical personnel stepped into action quickly. We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can. I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration. May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who was at the parade, said the truck missed Wasserman Schultz’s car “by inches” before crashing through a gate and into a plant nursery.
He said shortly after the crash that he believed it was a deliberate attempted attack of the Democratic congresswoman.
“This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” Trantalis told Local 10 News. “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 said a third person was injured but in stable condition. Video obtained by Local 10 News shows a man being checked by Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue officials and telling people in the crowd that he was OK. He also appeared to be wearing a Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus shirt.
Daniel Squillace owns the garden store where the pickup truck ultimately ended up. He shared photos of it with Local 10 News, saying it crashed through his gate after hitting the two people.
The parade was canceled, but other festival events were to continue, organizers said.
“A tragic incident occurred at today’s Stonewall event. Out of respect for everyone involved, the parade has been canceled and a thorough investigation is being conducted,” Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton said in a statement.
June is Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall riots, which happened in late June 1969.