The suspect in a road rage incident along U.S. 30 that left a man dead last month appeared in court in Fort Wayne for the first time Tuesday morning.
Brandon M. Cook was formally arraigned on an Involuntary Manslaughter charge in Allen Superior Court Tuesday morning. The felony charge is related to the death Orlando Fernandez, 60, who died after an altercation along U.S. 30 on August 8.
It was just before 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8 when police were called to U.S. 30 near the US 33 interchange on a report of a battery that had taken place there. Responders arrived and and found a man in serious condition.
That man – Fernandez – was downgraded to critical condition at the scene, and he was pronounced dead by doctors at a local hospital.
An autopsy determined Fernandez died of a heart incident directly triggered by the stress of the altercation. His death was ruled a homicide.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Fernandez was driving through a construction zone on eastbound US 30 at the Goshen Road overpass where traffic goes down to one lane in a black Mustang. A witness behind Fernandez told police a Dodge Ram moved in behind the Mustang and the pickup truck kept stopping abruptly, according to the witness as detailed in a probable cause affidavit.
That witness told police that at that point, the driver got out of the Dodge and punched Fernandez several times in the face, the affidavit said. That driver then got back into the pickup and drove away.
The witness went up to the Mustang and found Fernandez with cuts and blood on his face, according to the affidavit.
The witness was able to give law enforcement the Dodge’s license plate number, the affidavit said, and police were led to the previous owner of the truck. That person told police he had just sold the truck to Cook.
Police then spoke with a woman who was in the truck with Cook. According to the affidavit, she told police Fernandez was “brake checking” and “flipping them off” in the construction zone. Then, Cook got out of the truck and Fernandez got out of his car, she said.
The woman said at that point, Fernandez grabbed Cook by the neck as Cook punched him back three times, according to the affidavit. Cook then got back in the car and drove away, she said.
The woman also told police Cook learned through a news report that Fernandez had died. The woman said Cook left town.
Police found Cook Aug. 16 at a campground in Panama City, Florida, where he was living in a tent. He was taken into custody on a warrant and later waived his right to extradition.
Authorities extradited Cook and he was booked into Allen County Jail around 6 p.m. Thursday, records show.
In court Tuesday, Cook was ordered held without bond. A bond hearing was set for Sept. 11, and a trial will be scheduled on Sept. 19.