A man has died after a truck driver struck spectators at the start of a pride parade in South Florida on Saturday, seriously injuring another, authorities said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the van driver appeared to be part of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride parade, but suddenly sped up when told he was next, crashing on the victims, according to WSVN-TV.
Trantalis said he believed it was a deliberate attack. Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, whose logo the suspect wore on his t-shirt, said that to his knowledge it was a “tragic accident” and not an attack on the LGBTQ community. The suspect was “part of the Chorus family” and the injured were part of it, he told local media.
Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Ali Adamson said authorities were investigating “every possibility,” with help from the FBI, but did not say whether they believed the incident was intentional.
The officers talk to the driver. It is not known if he has been charged. Wilton Manors Police tweeted that the public was not in danger.
Trantalis said the vehicle was inches from U.S. Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was in a convertible during the parade.
“The parade had just started and we saw people lining up and ready to move and all of a sudden this white van rushed through the crowd, narrowly missing MP Wasserman Schultz’s car. a few inches and smashed a door, ”he said.
In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated by the loss of a life”. “I am so heartbroken by what happened at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the lost life be a blessing.”
Scott Newton, the mayor of Wilton Manors, which is just north of Fort Lauderdale, said: “Out of respect for everyone involved, the parade has been called off and a full investigation is underway. “
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement. “Although authorities are still collecting information, we do know that two people marching to celebrate inclusion and equality were struck by a vehicle. This tragedy took place a few feet away from me and my team, and we are devastated to have witnessed this horrific incident. “
Viewer Christina Currie told the South Florida SunSentinel. “All of a sudden there was a big revving of a truck and an accident through a fence… It was definitely an intentional act just across the traffic lanes.”
Photos and video from the scene show Wasserman Schultz in tears at the scene. A spokesperson for Wasserman Schultz did not immediately return an email requesting comment.
June is Pride Month, commemorating the June 1969 police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that led to an uprising by LGBTQ Americans and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.
With Associated Press