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Tuesday, August 14, 2018 1:00 am

Charges filed in US 30 death

Suspect, 27, 'left town' after beating

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A witness said he saw 27-year-old Brandon M. Cook punch the 60-year-old man in the face last week, leaving Orlando Fernandez bloodied along the side of a busy Fort Wayne highway.

The younger man then got into a gold 2003 Dodge Ram pickup and drove east on U.S. 30. He would later write on Facebook that he “taught a lesson” to another driver.

The allegations are included in court documents filed Monday in Allen Superior Court charging Cook with involuntary manslaughter. Fernandez died of heart failure after he was beaten and his death was ruled a homicide by the Allen County coroner's office.

A warrant was issued for Cook's arrest.

Police say Fernandez was driving a black 2014 Ford Mustang about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when Cook merged into a lane behind him. The witness said he saw Cook's truck hit its brakes twice and then move to the driver's side of the Mustang and stop, according to a probable cause affidavit.

A “dark-complected male with short hair got out of the Dodge and was yelling at Fernandez,” the affidavit states. Fernandez also got out of his car, the witness – who got the license plate number from the truck – told police.

“(The witness) said that he then saw the driver of the Dodge punch Fernandez at least 4-5 times in the face,” the affidavit alleges. “(He) approached Fernandez and saw abrasions and blood on his face.”

Fernandez was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later.

The witness initially pointed to another man – the brother of the registered owner of the pickup – as the suspect who punched Fernandez, but police said in court documents that interviews with the brother and registered owner eliminated them both as suspects.

Police found the pickup at Junk Monkey, an auto repair shop run by Cook, police said. His girlfriend told detectives she was with him in the truck Wednesday, returning to Fort Wayne from dropping his children off in Pierceton, the affidavit states.

“She stated that the driver of the Mustang 'brake checked' them and then 'flipped them off,'” police said in court documents. “(She) stated that this made the defendant mad and she told him to just let it go.”

He didn't, though, and punched Fernandez three times after Fernandez grabbed Cook by the throat, according to the woman.

“(She) stated that Cook was aware that Fernandez died after the incident from the news,” court documents said. “(She) stated that Cook has left town and is on the run due to this incident.”

Cook is described as 5-foot-7, white and about 145 pounds. 

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 436-7867 or police at 427-1222.

mleblanc@jg.net