A potentially deadly and tragic situation was averted in a Florida gay bar this week when a Marine veteran's quick thinking prevented a man from launching a violent attack at The Corner Pub in the city of Wilton Manors.
Bartender Joseph Shakespeare was working his usual shift when a man came up to his bar and placed a grenade on the counter, saying he also had guns in his car.
One of Shakespeare's patrons, Marine veteran Darrell Darling overheard the conversation and quickly intervened in a subtle and brilliant way that very likely saved lives.
The Corner Pub is a well-known gay bar in the predominantly LGBTQ+ Fort Lauderdale suburb of Wilton Manors. And given the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ political climate in Florida, it's easy to see why Shakespeare was disturbed by the man.
As he told local news station WPLG:
“He showed me a grenade. He said, ‘Don’t be scared.’ It kinda freaked me out a little bit.”
Shakespeare then joked with the man in an attempt to tamp down his obvious anger.
“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.”
Shakespeare called the bar's owner, who called the police.
In the meantime, Darrell Darling was listening carefully nearby. He made his way over to the man to strike up a conversation. He learned the man had come to the bar to confront someone.
He told WPLG:
“He was agitated at somebody in the bar, looking to pick a fight. He had shown me a grenade immediately as I walked up. It looked real.”
Darling chatted with the man while other patrons calmly and quietly exited the bar.
Darling told WPLG he was able to form a bond with the man by discussing police and military service with him.
After doing so, he invited the man outside so they could continue their conversation. The man agreed, and once outside, Darling tackled him, subduing him just in time for the police to arrive.
Darling detailed how he did it:
“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."
On Twitter, people were grateful for Darling averting what could have been a very dark day.
Local authorities have confirmed the grenade was inert and the man is now receiving mental health treatment.