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After a man drove his truck through a crowd at a Florida Pride parade over the weekend, killing one, there were fears it was a targeted attack, but now police are saying it was a tragic accident.
The crash occurred Saturday at the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade & Festival in the city of Wilton Manors, Florida. A unidentified 77-year-old man was readying to lead the parade in his Dodge Ram pickup truck, as he couldn't participate on foot, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Inching his truck forward at the staging area near the parade’s start, the man suddenly accelerated and hit two people, killing one and injuring another, according to police.
The driver proceeded to cross more than one lane of traffic before hitting the fence of a local plant nursery, according to Local 10 News.
The driver and the two men he hit were all members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, according to NBC News. They had known one another.
“Today, we know yesterday’s incident was a tragic accident, and not a criminal act directed at anyone, or any group of individuals,” Wilton Manors Chief of Police Gary Blocker said in a statement Sunday on the department's Facebook page.
In the statement, Blocker thanked the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the FBI for collaborating in the investigation.
Early speculation revolved around the theory that the act could have been a deliberate one of terrorism against the LGBTQ+ community. On the afternoon of the event, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis voiced that belief on social media.
“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events,” Trantalis said on a Twitter post. “It terrorized me and all around me… I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away.”
Trantalis told reporters, “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT [sic] community,” according to 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.”
The out-of-control driver came within inches of striking a vehicle that had Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz inside, according to the New York Post.
Police say that the driver showed no signs of impairment and has fully cooperated with investigators, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The man was the subject of an onsite DUI check and was not placed under arrest.
The Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival is a one-day event that attracts more than 30,000 people annually to support and celebrate Pride Month in June. The celebration honors the 1969 Stonewall riots that helped pioneer the fight for gay rights in America.
At a vigil at Sunshine Cathedral on Sunday evening, Trantalis spoke. “I regret saying that it was a terrorist attack,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “But I don’t regret my feelings.”