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‘If I could trade him places I would.’ -Brandon Cook talks with Fort Wayne’s NBC moments after release from jail

FORT WAYNE, IND. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – August of last year, 28-year-old Brandon Cook and 60-year-old Orlando Fernandez, were both driving along US 30 in Western Allen County.

Something caused tempers to flare, that led to a physical fight between the two.

Police say Cook punched Fernandez as many as five times before driving off.

Fernandez was rushed to a hospital where he died of a heart attack. Later Cook traveled to Florida where police arrested him in Panama City.

Cook was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail on a lesser battery charge, but he’d already served 251 days in jail. So, he was credited with ‘time served’ and he walked away from the Allen County jail a free man.

That’s where Fort Wayne’s NBC reporter, Kaitlyn Kendall met up with him. Brandon Cook’s first few moments as a free man were spent sharing his side of the story, with us, for the first time. “There are two sides to every story. The news limited certain details of the case,” said Cook.

When asked what it was like the moment the jury’s not guilty verdict was handed down Cook said, “I can’t explain the feeling, there is so much heartache in the air. That goes out to Fernandez’s family and my family, everybody has been hurt about this case. If I could take it back, I would take it back in a heartbeat.”

Cook walked us through what happened back in August, “He started hitting his breaks and at first I was like maybe he is seeing something I didn’t. Then it went from that to him rolling down his window and giving me the finger. When he gave me the finger I was like what the heck is wrong with this guy.” Cook continued by saying, “At the last second I saw he put his car in park. When I got out I was mad and I yelled at him and stuff. He was yelling back, we were really cussing at each other. As soon as we got done cussing, that’s when he reached up and grabbed me by my neck. He grabbed me around my neck with my dog tags. I tried to get away and he wouldn’t let go and that’s when I hit him.”

The thrown punches, are something Cook says he takes full responsibility for. But now, with everything that’s happened he says it’s time to try and rebuild his life.

“I’ve lost everything, I can’t do it here. I don’t have any family here. I will be leaving for Tennessee in the next couple days,” said Cook.

As for what Cook had to say to Fernandez’s family? He said, “I would apologize, I know it’s been rough. There was a lot of the story that didn’t come out until trial and I would like to apologize to them. I hate that this ever happened.”

Kaitlyn Kendall

Kaitlyn Kendall is a main anchor and chief investigative reporter for ABC21.

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