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One dead, two critical in Swainsboro incident
Taco Bell crash was intentional, police said
W Cope2c Oliver Beylin
Oliver Baylen Cope

A Statesboro man is charged with felony murder after plowing his car into a Swainsboro Taco Bell Thursday afternoon in what police say appears to be an intentional act.

One woman is dead and four victims, including two children, are hospitalized, said Swainsboro Police Chief Randy Ellison.

Just before 4 p.m. Thursday, Ellison said 18-year-old Oliver Baylen Cope of Old River Road North in Bulloch County, drove a Dodge Charger across five lanes of traffic at a high rate of speed, crashing into the restaurant, killing Macy Lynn Purvis, 23, of Adrian.

A 7-year-old boy and a 1-year-old boy were trapped underneath the car, Ellison said. The children's mother, Sara Rose Kersey, 24, of Adrian, also was seriously injured, as well as a man, Javier Rodrigues of Swainsboro. Rodrigues, 42, and the 7-year-old boy both remain in critical condition Friday, while Kersey and the 1-year-old are in stable condition, Ellison said. All were taken to a hospital in Augusta.

Cope walked out of the crash, looked around at the chaos, and approached a Swainsboro police officer to identify himself as the driver, Ellison said.

"We have no idea" why Cope drove into the restaurant, he said, adding that there is no known link between Cope and Swainsboro, the Taco Bell or anyone inside. Ellison said none of the eight customers inside, nor the employees, knew Cope.

"There is no motive at this time," Ellison said.

Cope did not divulge why he purposely drove into the restaurant, and asked for legal representation when questioned, he said.

Cope is a 2017 honor graduate of Bulloch Academy and was attending the University of Georgia, Ellison said.

The incident happened so fast, patrons at the restaurant had no time to react, he said.

"I don't think (Cope) was in his right frame of mind."

Ellison said investigators are awaiting toxicology reports to determine whether Cope was under the influence of any substances, adding that the case remains under active investigation.

Cope is charged with felony murder, four counts of aggravated assault, and criminal damage to property. He remains without bond in the Emanuel County Jail after having a first appearance in court Friday.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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