Suspect not guilty by insanity in deadly Taco Bell crash

Suspect not guilty by insanity in deadly Taco Bell crash

EMANUEL COUNTY, GA (WTOC)- An Emanuel County Court has found that a man that drove his car into the Swainsboro Taco Bell, killing one person and injuring seven others in September of 2017, is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Oliver Cope was evaluated by a psychiatrist at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah shortly after he was arrested, where he was diagnosed as suffering from severe manic Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features.

Cope also underwent three forensic psychiatric evaluations. All of the doctors concluded that Cope was mentally ill at the time of the crash. Two of the doctors found that Cope was out of touch with reality leading up to and during the crash, stating that he believed that his attempt at suicide would save humanity.

The Court states Cope lacked the mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the crash.

The Court still has jurisdiction over Cope and can hold him for up to 30 days as he undergoes an evaluation by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. After that period, the department will recommend whether Cope should recommended for inpatient commitment.

District Attorney Hayward Altman told Judge Kathy Palmer earlier this December that three separate psychiatric evaluations found Cope incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. His attorney told the court how a misdiagnosis of a mental illness and the wrong medication had made his delusions even worse. He said the crash was another in a line of Cope’s attempts to kill himself. Both sides asked the judge to rule not guilty by reason of insanity.

“I’ve been doing this 30 plus years,” Altman said. “This is the second or third, well, maybe the fifth or sixth case where we reached this conclusion. When you have three psychiatrists independent of each other come back with the same conclusion, along with witnesses, then I have a moral imperative to do the right thing."

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.