COVINGTON, Ga. – A man who a family member says suffers from mental illness was arrested Tuesday after driving his car over five people, including three children, in an apparent intentional attack at a McDonald's restaurant.
A 2-year-old girl hit by the car was in critical condition Tuesday night, according to police. Two adult sisters and two other children were in stable condition, according to police.
Witnesses said Lanny Barnes, 36, of Covington smiled and laughed as he left the scene. He was arrested near the restaurant and faces multiple charges, including five counts of aggravated assault, Covington Assistant Police Chief Almond Turner said.
Barnes was in custody at the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Turner said. Two children and two adults were hospitalized in stable condition.
"All indications are that he intentionally hit them," Turner said.
Police said witnesses described the car running up over a curb as the victims left the restaurant, hitting them and then the building before backing up and hitting them again shortly before 1 p.m.
The children and their mothers, who are sisters, were injured by the green Honda Accord, police said. One of the women was identified by police as Anita King, 36, of North Carolina, but police said they did not know her hometown. Her 2-year-old daughter, Avery Nicole King, was described as being in critical condition at Children's Healthcare hospital in Atlanta.
The other woman was identified by police as Stephanie Casola, 33, of Covington. Her children, Jacob Paul, 4, and Isaac Raymond, 3, were taken to Children's Healthcare, where they were in stable condition, police said Tuesday night. Police said the family had asked that no details be given out on conditions.
The children were airlifted to Children's Healthcare hospital in Atlanta, about 30 miles west of Covington, and the adults were taken to Newton Medical Center in Covington.
Barnes has had mental difficulties, his mother, Mary, told The Associated Press.
"He's been suffering with depression for years," said Mary Barnes, her voice shaking after being told by a reporter what happened. "Lord have mercy."
Ryan Boldman-Snyder, an employee at the McDonald's, said Barnes was "smiling the whole time" after he struck the five people and tried to drive away.
"He came with the intent to hurt somebody," Boldman-Snyder said.
Boldman-Snyder said Barnes was sitting in his car and smiling immediately after the incident. The 20-year-old said witnesses tried to pull Barnes out of his car in the restaurant parking lot before Barnes drove away.
"I was the first one to run after him and others were following," said Boldman-Snyder, who said he saw police officers finally pull Barnes out of the car from the passenger's front door. "A few of them had their guns pulled."
Boldman-Snyder said he was on break outside the restaurant when the pedestrians were struck.
"I heard people on the other side of the restaurant screaming," he said. "People were pulling kids out from underneath the car."
McDonald's area franchise manager Bill Hall said the company was deeply saddened by the tragedy.
"Our prayers are with the victims, the children, and their families. We are cooperating fully with the authorities as they investigate," Hall said. "As always, we remain committed to operating safe restaurants for our employees and our customers and so our hearts are breaking right now."
Hall said the restaurant would remain closed for the rest of the day and counseling was being provided for employees.