SWAINSBORO, GA (WTOC) - The driver charged with killing one and injuring four others at a Swainsboro Taco Bell made his first court appearance Friday morning in Emanuel County.
That driver has been identified as 18-year-old Oliver Cope of Statesboro.
Cope has been charged with felony murder, aggravated assault (against the injured and deceased), and criminal damage to property.
What started out as a normal day for customers and workers quickly turned into something unexpected and tragic Thursday afternoon. The chaotic situation started across the street from Taco Bell.
The afternoon rush had begun when the car smashed through the front glass around 4 p.m. Witnesses told police a car came around the Burger King and out the exit, gunned it across four lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 1, hit a curb, jumped, became airborne, and then bounced one time before crashing into the Taco Bell. Some had to be rescued after being pinned under the vehicle. In all, four people were injured and one person was killed.
"We work as hard to prove somebody's innocence as we do to prove them guilty," said Chief Randy Ellison, Swainsboro Police Department. " There are still a lot of pieces of this puzzle that we've got to fit together before we know what the picture looks like."
The deceased has been identified as Macy Lynn Purvis. The other injured victims are a 7-year-old, 1-year-old, and two adults.
"We're getting security videos from other nearby businesses," said Hayward Altman, District Attorney. "We're talking to witnesses.There are also several search warrants we'll be getting."
Dasherion McKay frequents the fast-food restaurant and has relatives who work there.
"They were on the phone with one of the employees asking when they come into work, and it happened while they were on the phone," said McKay.
Police apprehended Cope at the scene and took him to headquarters for questioning. Neither they nor state troopers are treating this as a normal crash.
Chief Randy Ellison of the Swainsboro Police Department says he does not believe this to be a normal accident.
"This looks like an intentional act. I don't know what would cause somebody to drive into a restaurant full of people," Ellison said.
Police looked for a connection between Cope and the restaurant, an employee or one of the customers.
"I've asked some of those questions and I haven't found any connects so far at all," said Ellison.
Witnesses say all they could do was stare at the rubble and wonder what happened.
"I sit right there, where basically the cars park," said McKay. "I always bring me, my son there and my fiance. We always sit right there and eat. That could have been us."
Police waited on a search warrant to check the car before the tow truck pulled it away from the scene. Any finding from that warrant has yet to be revealed.
The Taco Bell released the following statement after the incident:
Stay with us for continuing coverage of this case.