Florida man tackled to the ground after walking into LGBTQ+ bar with a grenade

In this screen capture of a TV interview, Darryl Darling, speaks to the camera

A man was tackled to the ground after he pulled out a grenade at a popular queer club in Wilton Manors, Florida.

On Tuesday (15 August), an unnamed individual walked into The Corner Pub along N Andrews Avenue and placed a grenade on the bar counter, startling surveillance footage showed.

“He showed me a grenade. He said: ‘Don’t be scared.’ It kinda freaked me out a little bit,” bartender Joseph Shakespeare told South Florida television station WPLG Local10.

“I was just thinking, stay calm, because we have a lot of people in there, and this is our community, so I want to keep everybody safe.”

The man claimed to have guns in his car. But bar regular and former Marine Darell Darling overheard the two speaking.

“He had shown me a grenade immediately as I walked up. It looked real,” Darling recalled, adding that the man was “agitated at somebody in the bar, looking to pick a fight”.

The pair traded stories of being in the military and the police, Darling said. “As people started to clear the bar, I used certain intentions to just keep his focus on me so we would be the last ones leaving the bar,” he added.

Darling was able to convince the man to leave the bar before tackling him at around 9pm outside The Corner Pub’s front doors.

“He could be a threat, I don’t know how he’s feeling. So I grabbed one hand, swept his full leg out and just put my full weight on the back of his body so he could not get up,” he said.

CCTV of the man placing the grenade on the bar counter.

CCTV of the man placing the grenade on the bar counter. (Screen captures via YouTube/WPLG)

By this point, Shakespeare had been able to phone the police, alert the bar owners and help some patrons escape. One witness told WSVN News Shakespeare gave them a note reading: “The guy behind me has a grenade.”

Darling said in a Facebook post Thursday that ensuring the bar staff and patron’s safety was a “team effort” and that the pub’s owners, Shannon Henne and his partner Anthony Pignanelli, were the last to leave only once the bar had been cleared out.

“They were so calm and brave! Thank you gentlemen!” he said.

Man was ’emotionally disturbed, distraught by friends’ deaths’, say police

Wilton Manors police quickly booked the man at 9:26pm. The force has yet to release his identity or any other details.

The man, police said in a press release, was an “emotionally disturbed male” who has since been taken to a mental health facility for treatment. The grenade he had was a dud and he had no other weapons to hand.

“Wilton Manors Police Officers determined that the male was intoxicated and in need of mental health services. The male told police officers that he was distraught by the recent deaths of close friends,” police added.

“After canvassing the area, law enforcement deemed the businesses safe for patrons to enter.”

Darling’s friend, freelance makeup artist Alejandro Acosta, launched a GoFundMe on Thursday to raise money to remind the “hero” he is “loved and cared for”. It has so far raised $230 of its $4,000 goal.

“I have known my Marine veteran friend Darryl for over ten years. He is sweet, kind, and, most of all, he is always caring. A great friend who never hesitates to lend a helping hand,” Acosta said.

“Darryl has had a rough year. Although he will not make this very evident, he had a motorcycle accident earlier this year, damaging his beloved bike. He is currently between jobs and cannot fully repair his motorcycle, and he deserves to have some good come his way.”

Wilton Manors, a city in Broward Country, is the “second gayest city in America”, according to the city’s website.

“The City of Wilton Manors is a place where diversity is not tolerated, but embraced,” it says.

And  voters know this well. In 2018, Wilton Manors became the first city in Florida and the second city nationwide to elect an all LGBTQ+ governing body, with the Wilton Manors mayor and city commissioners all being queer.

However, Florida has become increasingly rocked by a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Among them, the notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ bill that banned public school teachers from encouraging “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels”.

And school boards are facing difficult decisions about how best to comply with the law, with one enforcing a new policy that will forcibly out children to their parents and guardians if they come out to a teacher.

Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature has also banned trans Floridians from using Medicaid, the public health insurance programme for low-income people and the elderly, to pay for gender-affirming healthcare.