The Journal Gazette
Saturday, August 18, 2018 1:00 am

Road rage suspect held in Florida

Found at campsite; wanted after US 30 fight turned fatal

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man wanted in a deadly road rage Aug. 8 was living in a tent at a campground on the Florida Panhandle when the law caught up with him.

Brandon M. Cook, 27, drove 900 miles from the spot on U.S. 30 where he allegedly beat 60-year-old Orlando Fernandez last week after the two argued in traffic. Fernandez later died of heart failure.

Cook was arrested about 8:50 p.m. Thursday in Panama City Beach, after U.S. marshals told police that he might be there, according to an incident report from the Bay County Sheriff's Office. Marshals said Cook was driving a green motorcycle with an Indiana license plate.

The sheriff's office worked with U.S. marshals to set up surveillance at the campsite, and he was arrested within an hour, investigators announced Friday. The motorcycle was parked nearby.

“Law enforcement observed him when he began cooking a meal at the campsite,” a news release says.

Cook, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Fernandez's death, is in jail in Panama City. It is not clear when he will be sent to Fort Wayne.

Fernandez was driving a Ford Mustang east on U.S. 30 in front of Cook, who was in a 2003 Dodge Ram, when a witness saw the pickup hit its brakes twice and then move to the driver's side of Fernandez's car, according to a probable cause affidavit. The two men got out of their vehicles, and the witness told police he saw the man later identified as Cook punch Fernandez “4-5 times in the face,” leaving him bloodied.

He got back into the truck and drove off, the witness told police.

Cook's girlfriend told investigators Fernandez “brake checked them” and “flipped them off” before the alleged attack. She told police Cook knew Fernandez had died and went “on the run,” the affidavit alleges.

Cook was born in Orange Park, Florida, a town of about 8,400 people near Jacksonville on the state's east coast, the incident report shows. Orange Park is about 280 miles from Raccoon River Campground, where Cook was arrested. 

He faces up to six years in prison if he is convicted on the involuntary manslaughter charge.

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