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Ex-Blinn student gets probation, fine in AK-47 incident

By HOLLY HUFFMAN

Eagle Staff Writer

A former Blinn College student who fired an AK-47 at strangers after a fight in College Station was sentenced Thursday to probation and ordered to pay an $8,000 fine.

Brandon Carter Combs, 21, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the April 2003 incident, which began with a fight at a fast food restaurant and ended with Combs firing the assault rifle outside his apartment.

He originally pleaded not guilty and was on trial this week. But he changed his plea to guilty Wednesday just after prosecutors played a taped statement he gave to police about the incident in which he says he was merely trying to scare three men who chased him down.

Combs’ sentence is seven years probated, meaning he can stay out of prison so long as he meets the conditions of his probation. A hearing to determine the length of his probation will be held at a later date, prosecutors said.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. But Combs was eligible for probation because he never before had been convicted of a felony.

The defense asked for probation, while prosecutors asked that Combs be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Witnesses said Combs and Mark Allen Wendler exchanged words in the drive-through of Jack In The Box on Texas Avenue after Combs complained about Wendler’s choice of loud music. The conflict escalated and the pair ended up in a brief fistfight.

After passengers from both vehicles split them apart, the two met back up in their cars and Combs told Wendler and his two friends to follow him, witnesses testified. Comb sped ahead as he approached his apartment complex on Harvey Road, ran inside and returned with an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle, witnesses said.

Combs said he shot it into the air, but the trio told jurors Combs fired it at them as they tried to race from the Briarwood Apartments parking lot. One of eight bullets tore through the back of the car and through two headrests before stopping in the airbag. No one was injured, but the men ducked when they heard the gunfire, they said.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Granberry said he and fellow prosecutor Rashelle Rhoden argued for prison time because Combs’ actions easily could have killed someone.

“The only reason James Williams [a passenger in Wendler’s car] didn’t die was because he ducked,” Granberry said. “Otherwise, he would be dead.”

But Granberry said he and Rhoden respect the verdict and “sincerely hope Combs successfully completes his probation.”

Defense attorney Jim James argued during closing statements that alcoholism was to blame for Combs’ actions and said the 21-year-old has since taken steps to better himself.

James said there is a long history of alcoholism in Combs’ family — both Combs’ father and brother were alcoholics, as was his sister, who recently killed herself. And, he said, Combs was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

“We’re relieved,” James said of the verdict.

• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is hhuffman@theeagle.com.

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