The problem is that, once this story broke, journalists began paying closer attention to some of Copeland’s online life — including the contents of his trans fantasy fiction. As that Daily Mail story noted:
The narrator discussed the steps one takes to ‘transition’ and completely change his body to match the one of a real-life local woman living in his town.
It also explained how he carefully began to insert himself as the unidentified lady into her friend group and goes into graphic detail on how he seduces her husband.
The end of the story then expresses the narrator’s plan to kill the woman, and permanently take her place in society.
Also, journalists — and police officials — began hearing from specific women who made accusations (on television, no less) that Copeland’s online activities were hitting too close to home.
To be specific, they claimed that Copeland used information that could identify them and also posted pictures of them and other locals. Here is some summary material from another 1819news report:
Ansley Summerlin, who alleged Copeland used her identity, told WTVM her name and likeness appeared on multiple porn sites.
“I had some people start sending me photos that were posted of me on multiple porn sites, I guess you could say that also had pictures of ‘Brittini,’ as well,” she said. “And he proceeded to use my first and middle names on these sites. And I believe there are about nine sites now that have five or six photos of my face and my name across the net.”
The second alleged victim, identified as a “local hairstylist in Smiths Station,” also discussed her likeness being used in Copeland’s writings.
“It said my first and last name,” she said. “And it was basically describing the way that I look and intensified, I guess, as a porn star. And it went into very graphic detail. I didn’t get past the first page because I honestly couldn’t stomach it.”
At this point, we have accusations of public misconduct against a public official. That’s a local news story.
In the podcast, I also mentioned that Copeland is a Southern Baptist pastor — a national flock that is the middle of high-profile debates about how to handle sexual abuse by clergy and congregational leaders. It’s safe to say that online sexual fiction (porn is a loaded and legal word) about real people, with photos that identify them, would be abusive behavior.
Copeland’s apparently low-key reactions to the first news reports — including some public remarks to his congregation in a Wednesday night service — took a turn for the worse as the coverage dug into some of these specifics. The New York Post reported:
An Alabama preacher and politician who killed himself days after being outed for having a secret life online as a “transgender curvy girl” had told a friend just days earlier that he was experiencing some “dark days.”
F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, 62, who was the mayor of tiny Smiths Station, confided in the friend after a news outlet published a story that featured photos of Copeland’s “alter ego” Brittini Blaire Summerlin in a bra and feminine clothing.
“After watching for a day or two [of] people just relentlessly attacking Bubba, I was quite bothered by it, and I just decided to reach out to him,” former Phenix City School Superintendent Larry D. Chiara told NBC News.
“It was the day before he passed away. I said, ‘Bubba, keep your head up, you’re a good man with a great heart. Don’t ever forget that. Call me if you need me,’” Chiara recounted.
“His response was: ‘Thank you. It’s been some dark days.’ And I said, ‘I’m sure, just hang in there it will pass.’”
Then the stories appeared with the accusations of “violent fantasy fiction and posted photos of people from the community to his Reddit page without their consent.” Copeland contacted a friend in the local police department — Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
This started the final act in this tragedy. More from the Post:
“It was a friend calling a friend,” he explained. “Let’s just say he was concerned about the article. I think ‘upset’ would be a good way of putting it.”
Authorities then conducted a welfare check on the mayor. Two deputies first went to Copeland’s to find him, and then to a local market he frequented, before ultimately spotting the mayor driving on a county road, officials said.
The deputies then turned on their emergency lights and tried to get Copeland to pull over. When he ultimately did, Copeland got out of the vehicle and shot himself.
“We had no idea Copeland would die on the spot,” Jones said. “There were obvious concerns for his welfare, and deputies were attempting to get him to stop, make contact with him assess the situation, and then take action based on that assessment.”
He added that he does not know what the deputies could have done differently. “It’s just tragic all the way around.”
After the suicide, there was this:
Church member Dan Elkins also said he has been removing hateful comments on Copeland’s Facebook page following his death.
“He was far from perfect — but he was my pastor, my friend, and my brother,” Elkins told NBC. “And in the midst of my anger about this whole situation, tonight my heart is just absolutely broken.
“By no means am I disregarding/discounting accountability,” he added, “but it must be dispensed with love and care, not scorn and judgment.”