Ontario teen arrested after threatening to commit mass shooting at Florida Pride event

A 17-year-old was arrested after reportedly brandishing a gun and threatening to open fire at a West Palm Beach event

A 17-year-old in Mississauga, Ontario, was arrested earlier this week and charged after allegedly threatening to attack a Pride event in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

The teen, whose name has not been released to the public because he is a minor, was reportedly arrested on June 6 in Mississauga. Officials with West Palm Beach Police Department claimed in a press release that the teen threatened to commit a mass shooting at Pride on the Block 2022 in statements he made on the video-chat platform Omegle. Police said the alleged assailant waved a gun in a video obtained by authorities.

“Threats and hate speech have no place in our city, in our community, in our country,” said West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles in a statement. 

While the alleged assailant is currently being held in custody in Canada, Deputy Chief of West Palm Beach police Rick Morris told CBC News that U.S. authorities plan to extradite the teen to face charges stateside. Potential charges may include written or electronic threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism under Florida State Statue 836.10.

The suspect reportedly claimed to live in Palm Beach County. Police say that someone who saw a video of him contacted authorities in Miami early on June 5 to alert them of the potential threat. 

While organizers of Pride on the Block and local law enforcement weighed cancelling the event, it eventually went ahead this weekend with additional officers—both uniformed and undercover—on the lookout. (Police have long had a rocky relationship with the LGBTQ2S+ community, however, and increased police presence may have unsettled some attendees.)

West Palm Beach police reportedly worked with the Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police Service, New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apprehend the suspect.

Local leaders thanked law enforcement for ensuring that the June 5 event could go on as planned.

“With the spectre of the Pulse nightclub massacre always in mind when LGBTQ2S+ events are held, we are always grateful for the support of our law enforcement partners,” said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, in a statement.

In June 2016, 49 people were killed in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the deadliest attack against LGBTQ2S+ people in U.S. history.

West Palm Beach was not the first Pride celebration so far this year to be threatened with violence. A 21-year-old man was arrested in Jerusalem, Israel, last week by police on suspicion of sending threats to the organizer of Jerusalem Pride, according to the Associated Press. Jerusalem Pride took place without major incident on June 2, having previously seen violence in both 2005 and 2015.


On June 5, a Pride march in Iasi, Romania,—a city of 318,000 near the eastern border with Moldova—was attacked by right-wing and religious protesters, as the European news site Balkan Insight reports. The assailants allegedly threw eggs at Pride attendees and set off flares to terrorize them. No injuries have been reported. 

While West Palm Beach police emphasized there is no current threat to public safety, an increasingly anti-LGBTQ2S+ atmosphere globally may lead to more threats of violence at Pride events, which are scheduled through June and beyond. 

V.S. Wells

V. S. Wells is a British writer living in Vancouver, B.C., with bylines in Slate, VICE and Autostraddle. Please stop asking them about Brexit.

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