Driver faces charges in fatal road rage incident
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A decorated Army veteran from Upper St. Clair was arraigned early Friday on charges that he shot and killed a Washington County man Thursday in front of dozens of witnesses in an apparent road rage incident.
Brandon D. Thomas, 30, is charged with killing Vaughn Simonelli, a 55-year-old truck driver from Chartiers, in the parking lot of the Shop 'n Save on Beau Street in Washington, Pa.
Witnesses said the two had been involved in a minor collision on Jefferson Avenue and then got into an argument in the parking lot. A police affidavit said Mr. Thomas reached into his vehicle, a Hummer, and shot Mr. Simonelli twice in the chest as both men stood alongside the vehicle. Mr. Thomas then returned to his Hummer and waited for police.
Mr. Thomas was being held in the Washington County Jail without bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday.
Frank Walker, a lawyer for Mr. Thomas, said that, contrary to police reports, his client never got out of his vehicle but rather was approached and blocked in by Mr. Simonelli. The two men had been arguing as they drove the length of Jefferson Avenue from the I-70 exit, he said.
After they stopped in the shopping plaza, the lawyer said, Mr. Simonelli walked over to Mr. Thomas's car, punched him and threatened to kill him.
Mr. Walker said that Mr. Thomas -- who served in the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Iraq for 18 months and Afghanistan for 30 months, was wounded and received three Purple Hearts, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder -- felt his life was in danger and acted to defend himself.
First Published October 20, 2012 12:41 am