Nashville war hero faces murder charge - WSMV Channel 4

Nashville war hero faces murder charge

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Hillwood High School graduate Brandon Thomas served three tours of duty and is a decorated veteran for his service in the U.S. military.

He's part of the respected Thomas family who owns and operates the poplar Sperry's restaurants in Nashville. However, he's now charged with murder after a recent incident in Pittsburgh.

But did this war hero and family man do nothing more than protect himself from an outraged driver?

On Oct. 18, there was a fender bender that lead to road rage incident in a Save-A-Lot parking lot in Pittsburgh.

Witnesses said a man named Vaughn Semonelli, 55, pinned Thomas in his Hummer, came up to the car and punched him in the face.

Thomas, 30, grabbed a gun and shot twice, killing Semonelli.

Thomas is a father of three, a veteran of three tours of duty, a staff sergeant paratrooper and a mortar man with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Thomas earned three purple hearts and a bronze medal of valor.

Many have said he's a soldier known for a calm head in battle.

"I met Brandon. He's not a big guy, but he has a presence about himself. I think he was attacked. There were witnesses that said he was attacked, and some said he was violently attacked, and he was in no other position but to protect himself," said attorney Frank Walker.

Members of Thomas' brigade have leapt to his defense and have written the Pittsburgh district attorney 32 letters in eight days asking that the charges be dropped.

The soldier's mother said Brandon has never been anything but a good soldier, a good man and the leader of his family.

"He's my oldest son and he's always be held in the highest regard by his family, and his two younger brothers. He was always our hero in our family. He always stepped up when he had to be a man," said mother Leah Vaughn. "We know that Brandon would never ever take a life unless he was fearing for his own or other people around him."

There is a huge effort by the 173rd to raise money in his defense.

The family is hoping all charges will soon be dropped against their son.

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