Man whose car struck five did it on purpose, police say


COVINGTON, Ga. (AP) – A man accused of driving a car that struck two sisters and their three small children outside a McDonald’s restaurant hit them intentionally, authorities said Wednesday.

“There was clear intent to injure the people. It was obvious,” police Chief Stacey Cotton said. “This was absolutely not an accident.”

The car struck the five, hit the restaurant, then backed up and hit them again Tuesday, police said. All five were hospitalized, and a 2-year-old was in critical condition.

Lanny Barnes, 46, appeared before Chief Magistrate Judge Henry Baker on Wednesday. Barnes faces five felony charges of aggravated assault and was ordered held without bail pending a mental health evaluation.

Barnes’ mother, Mary Barnes, said her son has suffered depression for years.

There was no apparent connection between the victims and Barnes, and authorities have no motive, Cotton said.

“I’ve seen some pretty heinous things occur, but nothing like this with no explanation,” Cotton said. “That’s the strange thing. That’s the big question mark: Why?”

He said blood and urine samples were taken from Barnes and sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab.

Barnes was represented at Wednesday’s hearing by public defender Anthony Carter, who said Barnes’ mental health could be a factor in the case.

“We are beginning a full investigation into all aspects of this case, including Mr. Barnes’ mental capacity at the time of the incident, as well as past mental health treatment,” Carter said.

McDonald’s worker Ryan Boldman-Snyder was outside on a break when the attack happened and said the driver was “smiling the whole time.”

Cotton declined to comment on eyewitness reports that Barnes was smiling and laughing in the car after hitting the victims.

The police chief praised McDonald’s employees and customers who tried to apprehend Barnes and assist the victims.

One employee took one of the injured children to a hospital, “possibly saving that child’s life,” Cotton said.

“It would have been a lot worse if some citizens had not jumped in and started pulling people away from the car,” Cotton said.

Anita King, 36, of Asheville, N.C., was treated at Newton Medical Center and released Tuesday, said hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Barbour. The condition of her sister, Stephanie Casola, 33, of Covington, was unclear.

A call seeking comment from a Grady Memorial Hospital spokeswoman in Atlanta was not immediately returned Wednesday.

King’s 2-year-old daughter, Avery Nicole, was listed in critical condition at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, while Casola’s children, Jacob Paul, 4, and Isaac Raymond, 3, were in serious condition.

AP-ES-05-24-06 1729EDT