LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — Smiths Station Mayor F.L. Bubba Copeland was found dead Friday evening off a Lee County Road, Sheriff Jay Jones confirmed to WRBL.
“I can confirm he took his own life,” Jones said.
Copeland has been at the center of a controversy this week involving his personal life. In addition to being mayor and owning a small grocery store on the Alabama backwaters, Copeland was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Phenix City.
The Alabama nonprofit online news site 1819 News reported last week that Copeland had posted pornography, graphic memes and explicit photos of himself in women’s clothing online. The news site shared screenshots from Copeland’s now-deleted Instagram and Reddit account, where he posted pictures and memes as a transgender woman, “Brittini Blaire Summerlin.” Copeland was also reportedly linked to transgender fiction and erotica that he authored, according to published reports.
Some of Copeland’s friends, including former Phenix City School Superintendent Dr. Larry DiChiara are weighing in online.
“I am so angry right now and heartbroken,” DiChiara said in a Facebook post. “I witnessed a good man be publicly ridiculed and crucified over the last few days…to the point that he just took his own life today.”
DiChiara shared that he had talked to Copeland since the controversy broke on Wednesday.
“I knew he was suffering so I reached out to him yesterday and offered him support and encouragement,” DiChiara said in his Facebook post. “He was appreciative and acknowledged that he had been going through some ‘dark days’ over the last few days. I just want to ask you people who thought it humorous to publicly ridicule him, ‘Are you happy now?’ What crime did he commit?”
DiChiara ended the post with this: “For our brother, F.L. Bubba Copeland, May God bless your soul and forgive those who took pleasure in your suffering. They should all be ashamed!”
Jones said the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County District Attorney’s Office were investigating the death.
Jones said Lee County deputies were responding to a request for a welfare check on Copeland when they spotted him driving his truck on a county road in the general area of his grocery store, but not at the store.
They attempted to pull Copeland over. He stopped, got out of his truck and shot himself, Jones said.
Jones said the entire reason for the stop was the welfare check. The sheriff said there were no outstanding warrants or any other reason to stop the vehicle.