A 23-year-old man pleaded not guilty Friday morning in Columbus Recorder’s Court to multiple charges after police said they found more than $47,000 worth of cocaine and marijuana in his possession.
Fernando Brown faced five felony counts related to criminal gang activity, as well as two counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a crime, and one count each of trafficking cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Columbus Police Officer Michael Aguilar testified that he was doing surveillance Wednesday near Fifth Avenue and 24th Street on a drug investigation. Around midnight, he said Brown drove by him in a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro playing extremely loud music.
Aguilar said he watched the car drive to the end of Fifth Avenue and 24th Street and stop. At that time, unknown individuals stepped in front of the Camaro and Brown walked toward them; they then all returned to the vehicle. Officers suspected possible activity and moved into the area.
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The individuals who entered the car got out and walked away from the scene. Brown allegedly attempted to drive the car through the dead end but got stuck on a tree trunk. Aguilar said they tried to open the driver’s door but it was locked, so they broke the window to gain entrance. Brown jumped out of the passenger’s side window and attempted to flee. He then allegedly punched and kicked at officers as they attempted to put him in custody.
Aguilar testified that while Brown was resisting arrest, he allegedly repeatedly yelled out “get the bag.” Officers said they searched the vehicle after detecting a marijuana odor in the car.
In the back seat, officers said they found a Michael Kors backpack with 443 grams of cocaine (street value of $44,300), 342 grams of marijuana (street value of $3,420) and a scale with a white substance on the top. Officers also recovered $3,220 in cash, along with a Glock and a Smith & Wesson. It was determined that the Smith & Wesson was stolen from Phenix City.
Officer Ryan Vardman also testified to Brown’s alleged gang activity with “Growth and Development,” also commonly known as “GD.” In 2012, the Georgia Department of Corrections validated him as a member of the gang. A crime can be attached to a criminal gang activity charge if it can be determined that the act was done to directly further the purpose of a gang, or to further a member’s status within the gang, according to defense attorney William Kendrick, who represented Brown.
Kendrick said Brown has not shown any recent indication of participating in the gang or any gang activities.
Brown is currently held in Muscogee County Jail under bonds totaling $74,300. The case was bound over to Superior Court.