The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 1:00 am

Jury hears 911 call as road rage trial begins

Prosecution: Assault led to victim's fatal heart attack

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

As medics sped to find him, Orlando Fernandez was growing weaker.

The 60-year-old called 911 about 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8, telling dispatchers he'd been attacked. The man who beat him on the side of the road on U.S. 30 was gone, he told them, and there were pains in his chest.

Fernandez became less responsive to questions as the time ticked away.

“I have a heart condition,” he can be heard telling dispatchers in a recording of the call played for jurors Tuesday in Allen Superior Court. “I'm having chest pains and I just got attacked. I'm losing my – I can't breathe. I can't breathe.”

Emergency crews arrived at his 2014 Ford Mustang parked near the busy intersection with Goshen Road soon after, but Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Kamia Shenoy said Fernandez's heart stopped before an ambulance left for the hospital.

He died from a heart attack caused “by the stress of the physical assault,” a doctor told investigators.

Brandon M. Cook, 28, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor battery. The first day of his trial included the emergency call and testimony from eyewitnesses who said they saw a man get out of a gold or tan Dodge pickup and punch Fernandez in an act of road rage.

The manslaughter charge carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.

“(Cook) beat the life out of Orlando Fernandez,” Shenoy said in opening statements.

Both men were driving east on U.S. 30 in an area that narrowed traffic to one lane. Brad Holloway told police he allowed Cook's pickup to enter traffic between him and Fernandez, who was driving the Mustang.

Cook's truck hit its brakes at least twice and then moved to the driver's side of the Mustang and stopped. Fernandez was punched repeatedly by the driver of the truck, Holloway said.

“(I) saw the Mustang driver just collapse into his seat,” he said.

Another witness – David Wysong – testified the attack was preceded by a jockeying for position on the road. It looked like the pickup was trying to merge and the Mustang wouldn't provide space, he said.

Naomi Cramer, Cook's girlfriend, was with him in the truck and told police last year the Mustang “brake checked them” and Fernandez “flipped them off.”

In brief opening statements, defense attorney Bart Arnold called the death a tragedy and questioned whether the punches caused the heart attack that killed Fernandez. He questioned witnesses about how much of the alleged altercation they could see from their cars.

Holloway admitted he couldn't tell if Cook and Fernandez were talking or yelling.

He said Fernandez had blood on his face from a cut above his eye.

Cook wore a dark blue suit with a blue tie in court Tuesday. He did not show any emotion as the 911 call was played and witnesses testified.

He was arrested Aug. 16 in Panama City Beach, Florida, where investigators found him at a campground.

Testimony continues today.

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