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A pickup truck driver hit one man and killed one man and injured another as protesters prepared to begin a Pride parade on Saturday in South Florida, police said.
Justin Knight, president of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, who participated in the parade, said in a statement the driver was “part of the Chorus family”. He added, “To the best of my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community.”
Police said they had failed to determine the cause of the crash, which occurred just before 7 p.m. when officials and protesters gathered for the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade. The parade is an annual event in Wilton Manors, a town of approximately 12,750 residents north of Fort Lauderdale that is home to a large LGBTQ community.
“We are examining and evaluating all possibilities,” says Det. Ali Adamson, a spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale police who led the investigation, said at a press conference on Saturday evening. “We owe it to our community to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, working with our partners at the FBI.”
Mr. Knight said in his statement that “the injured” were members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. It was unclear whether the reference should include the deceased.
Detective Adamson wouldn’t say whether the driver was arrested or charged. She also declined to reveal the driver’s name or the names of the two men met. The injured man was expected to survive, she said.
“We’re talking to all parties involved – to include witnesses and the driver – we’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re conducting the most complete, accurate investigations and not excluding anything prematurely,” said Detective Adamson.
Sheriff Gregory Tony of Broward County, Florida said the driver hit the two men in close proximity to him and others from his office and that they were “devastated to witness this terrible incident”. He said rescue workers “looked after the victims immediately”.
The parade was canceled after the crash.
“What started as a celebration quickly turned into tragedy in today’s Stonewall Pride Parade,” Sheriff Tony said in a statement.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture and consumer services officer who attended the parade, said she heard from other people that the driver drove out of a parking lot where parade participants had gathered. She said the truck landed in a canal across the street.
She said many parade goers feared the driver was deliberately targeting LGBTQ people. “Unfortunately, at times like these, all thoughts go there,” she said.
Florida Democrat MP Debbie Wasserman Schultz was also among the elected officials preparing to take part in the parade when the driver ran over the two men.
“I am deeply shaken and devastated that my life was lost and others seriously injured at Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade tonight,” she said in a statement. “I am so heartbroken about what happened at that celebration.”