Fort Lauderdale mayor faces backlash for calling Pride crash a 'terrorist incident' with few facts available

The driver and the victims were reportedly part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus family

Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis is facing backlash for calling a deadly crash at a Pride parade in the Florida city a "terrorist attack against the LGBT community" before all the facts emerged.

"I hope @DeanTrantalis gets sued and then removed from office or defeated. Government officials shouldn’t be able accuse someone of *terrorism* so flippantly without facts," conservative author David Reaboi wrote on Twitter.

The driver and the victims were part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus family, according to a statement reported by news outlets from the group's president, Justin Knight.

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"To my knowledge it was an accident. This was not an attack on the LGBTQ community," Knight said in the statement. "We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support."

Police said the driver was a 77-year-old male who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and he was selected to drive as the lead vehicle. As the parade was about to begin, a 2011 white Dodge Ram unexpectedly accelerated into the crowd. 

One man was killed and another man was seriously injured. The truck narrowly missed Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who was present at the parade. It continued across all lanes of traffic before crashing into the fence of a business, police said

Police said the driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation. They said the driver showed no signs of impairment while driving. 

"This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community," Trantalis told Local 10 News on Saturday. "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."

He gave a follow-up statement to Fox News on Sunday afternoon.

"Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable," Trantalis said. "I 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."

"Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job. As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control," he continued.

Trantalis' initial remarks were met with swift criticism.

"Would have been neat if the mayor waited for facts," conservative writer Carmine Sabia wrote on Twitter.

"Far left Ft. Lauderdale Mayor @DeanTrantalis needs to publicly retract and apologize," former NYPD officer John Cardillo wrote on Twitter.

"If the Mayor had waited even 15 minutes, then he could've made a reasoned statement. Video of the arrest showed the driver wearing a gay men's chorus t-shirt, which was more than enough to [sow] reasonable doubt about the intent of the driver," Florida-based radio host Grant Stern wrote on Twitter.

Police said no arrests have been made and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department is continuing to investigate. 

Fox News' Brie Stimson, Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.