One victim is dead and another was injured Saturday after a truck drove into spectators at the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors, Florida. It's been revealed that the driver of the pickup truck is a member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus who told police that the fatal crash was an accident.
On Saturday, the white truck accelerated, hitting two individuals, killing one of the victims. The other is in critical condition at Broward Health Medical Center, but expected to recover. The incident occurred in the municipality of Wilton Manors, a part of Broward County adjacent to Fort Lauderdale.
While the two victims have not been identified, Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus, confirmed that both were part of the organization.
"Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver is also a part of the Chorus family," Knight said. "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." Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who was at the parade, said the driver was taken into custody.
According to CBS Local Miami, a witness said the driver was wearing a Pride shirt, driving a Pride flag-decaled truck, and was participating in the parade.
A senior official briefed on the incident told CBS4 that the initial indications point toward an accident. The driver of the truck told authorities that his foot was stuck between the gas pedal and the brake, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, the official said. The official also warned to CBS4 that the investigation is in its very early stages and more information is expected to emerge. Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Wilton Manors Police Department and the FBI are working together "to conduct a thorough and complete investigation," CBS4 reported.
"Still, it's sad that we live in a society where so many initially felt this was an intentional act of violence. We must work to build a more accepting state and push back against divisiveness," commented Fried on the update.
Activists and the media on the political left rushed to claim that the crash was a deliberate, homophobic "terrorist attack," not an accident by another participant.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, a Democrat, stated: "This was a terrorist attack against the LGBTQ community. He came here to destroy people. This was clearly no accident." Social media users are calling for a retraction and an apology:
Trantalis on Saturday stated that he was "an eyewitness to the horrifying events."
"It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away," the mayor wrote on Facebook. "Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job."
The city leader admitted that "a picture [of the situation] is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control."
However, he did not apologize for the divisive language he used to label the developing story "terrorism" before further facts of the incident can surface.
Others online blamed legislation signed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which provides some legal protections to drivers who are sued after running into protesters when they've felt threatened, but it does not, as many across the political aisle claimed Sunday morning, give residents free rein to run down protesters, nor does it give anyone the right to run over parade participants.
More than 12 hours after the event, the Twitter hashtag #DeathSantis continues to trend without any warning about misinformation, although the platform was quick to provide "context" anytime former President Donald Trump tweeted.
Wilton Manors Police Department tweeted Saturday night that the parade was canceled due to the "tragic event," but the festival events will continue. "THERE IS NO DANGER TO THE PUBLIC," the police's Twitter account urged.