Democrats pounced on a tragic incident that unfolded Saturday at a Fort Lauderdale LGBT Pride celebration in which one person was killed when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating Pride Month.
But, as it turned out, the driver of that vehicle was probably not a hate-filled individual who specifically targeted the LGBT event.
Two people were struck — and one of them later died — when a white truck accelerated into a crowd as the Stonewall Pride Parade was starting Saturday evening, WPLG-TV reported. The incident happened in Wilton Manors, Florida.
According to WPLG, "The white pickup truck was lined up with other floats when it accelerated and ran over two men standing by." The truck then crashed through a nearby gate and came to rest in a plant nursery.
Witnesses reportedly said the driver claimed he hit the people by accident. The driver, who was reportedly wearing Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus t-shirt, was quickly apprehended by police.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was participating in the event by riding in a convertible car, was almost struck by the truck. She later said:
I am deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost and others seriously injured at tonight's Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade. 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
The FBI has reportedly joined the investigation.
What claims were made?
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, a Democrat, claimed the incident was a deliberate attack, characterizing it as a "terrorist attack" against the LGBT community.
"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."
The mayor's claims were amplified by the media, and the hashtag #DeathSantis later trended on social media. Critics of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) blamed him and cited a recent law he signed providing civil immunity to some drivers who hit protesters.
What is the truth?
Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus, explained in a statement the truck driver was a member of his group.
"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. "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."
Did the mayor apologize?
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Trantalis did not apologize for calling the incident a "terrorist attack," though he acknowledged that "a picture is emergeing of an accident in which a truck careened out of control."