OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
12:16 PM – Sunday, November 5, 2023
A small town Alabama mayor has died by suicide after being involuntarily outed for dressing up as a transgender woman on social media.
Smiths Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday evening following a slow police pursuit.
Lee County police officers were responding to a request for a welfare check on Copeland at around 4:15 p.m. CT when they spotted him driving.
Police officers attempted to pull Copeland over. He then stopped and exited the car, produced a handgun and shot himself.
Sheriff Jay Jones said there were no outstanding warrants or any other reason to stop the vehicle other than responding to the request for a welfare check.
The 63-year-old mayor also served as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Phenix City. He is survived by his wife and three children.
The sheriff’s office reports that the investigation into the death is ongoing amid controversy that Copeland was the subject of.
In the two days leading up to his death, Copeland faced scrutiny after several news articles came out, revealing the Smiths Station mayor had been posing as a transgender woman on social media.
On Wednesday, which was Copeland’s 62nd birthday, 1819 News published a report that revealed Copeland had shared explicit content and photos of himself dressed as a woman on the internet, under the name “Brittini Blaire Summerlin.”
The news outlet provided screenshots from Copeland’s Instagram and Reddit accounts. The accounts have since been removed.
Several other news outlets repurposed the story after it was initially shared by 1819 News.
Copeland reportedly told 1819 News that his online alter ego was merely a “hobby” that did not leave the privacy of his own home.
“Just my wife knows about it,” Copeland said. “It’s a hobby I do to relieve stress. I have a lot of stress, and I’m not medically transitioning. It’s just a bit of a character I’m playing. … I don’t go out and seek solicitation or anything like that.”
“What I do in private life has nothing to do with what I do in my holy life,” Copeland told 1819 reporter Craig Monger. “Does this have any effect on me being mayor, that I sometimes put on a dress or sometimes put on makeup? Does that have anything to do whatsoever with me being mayor or being a pastor?”
On Wednesday evening, Copeland briefly addressed the controversy during a service at First Baptist Church in Phenix City.
“I have been an object of an internet attack,” Copeland said. “An article that was written about my capacity as the mayor [and] capacity as a pastor. The article is not who or what I am.”
Copeland said he took pictures with his wife in their home in an attempt of “humor” because he believed he was not a “handsome man” nor a “beautiful woman either.”
“I apologize for any embarrassment caused by my private, personal life that has come publicly,” Copeland said during the sermon.
Several members of the community, among them former Phenix City School Superintendent Dr. Larry DiChiara, have expressed their views on the matter online.
“I am so angry right now and heartbroken,” DiChiara posted. “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 reported speaking with 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 posted. “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!”
Cam Ward, director of Alabama Pardons and Paroles, said that Copeland’s death was “so incredibly sad.”
In 2019, Copeland guided the city in its efforts to recover from the aftermath of a devastating tornado that struck the nearby town of Beauregard, resulting in the tragic loss of 23 lives.
During that period, Copeland met with the then-President Donald Trump, who had arrived to assess the extensive damage caused by the storm.
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