Manuel Lopez
Photo: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Gwinnett teen driver charged after birthday joyride in stolen car injures 4

A Lilburn teenager accused of injuring himself and three friends when he wrecked a stolen car on his birthday faces a bevy of charges in connection with the incident. 

Manuel Lopez, 17, was joyriding a stolen 2015 Ford Focus last Wednesday when he lost control around a curve and crashed into a utility pole outside a Lilburn church, police said. Investigators determined the car was going 97 mph before leaving the roadway and flipping seven times.

The vehicle was reported stolen from a location on Jodeco Road about 6 a.m. that day, Lilburn police spokesman Scott Bennett said. Those injured in the wreck ranged in age from 15 to 17.

Two teens remain hospitalized after the driver of a stolen car lost control last week and crashed in front of a Lilburn church, police said.
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

RELATED: Cops: 4 teens injured after stolen car wrecks outside Gwinnett church

Two of the teens remained hospitalized Tuesday afternoon as Lopez made his first court appearance in a wheelchair, Channel 2 Action News reported. 

He faces a total of 13 charges, including theft by receiving stolen property, driving without a license, driving on the wrong side of the road, two counts of reckless driving, possession of a pistol by someone younger than 18, three counts of serious injury by vehicle, unsafe lane change, speeding and two gang-related charges. 

The third passenger, 15-year-old Eduardo Morales, cracked his skull, fractured several ribs and broke his back in the Jan. 8 crash. Now he needs his mother’s help just getting around the house, he told Channel 2. 

Eduardo Morales
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

“This happened to me because I didn’t stay in school,” Morales told the news station, acknowledging that he and his friends skipped class last Wednesday to celebrate Lopez’s birthday. 

Morales said Lopez panicked after seeing a police car drive by and took off down Burns Road before crashing. He remembers the car flipping, but only once.

“We was going pretty fast, I’m not gonna lie,” Morales said. “I don’t remember flipping the other six times.” 

Lilburn police said Lopez and the three other teens inside the car were already being investigated for a series of break-ins and burglaries, Channel 2 reported. Morales said he learned a “very hard and painful lesson.” 

Lopez remains held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond, records show.

In other news: 

Twice in just the last few weeks, heavy rain and flooding has forced lane closures on a busy stretch of I-285 in Dunwoody.

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