The family of a man accused of two drive-by shootings in separate jurisdictions in the same day says he has a history of mental illness.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested suspect Jonathan Blank, 25, Sunday for a drive-by shooting in Collier County. He is also accused of a second drive-by shooting that happened in Lee County.
Sunday, Lee County deputies responded to a shooting on US-41 at Sanibel Road in south Fort Myers, according to the sheriff’s office.
The victim was driving with his wife and a 5-year-old child from dinner when they say a suspect in a silver car shot at his vehicle.
According to the victim, the suspect drove behind him at a traffic light and honked his horn several times. The victim changed lanes to let the suspect pass. As the suspect’s car passed, the suspect pointed a gun from his window and fired a single round before speeding off.
“I’m relieved that this family was not injured,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said. “Our residents and visitors deserve to feel safe when driving on our roadways.”
LCSO said it used analytical research from the Real-Time Intelligence Center (RTIC) and patrol-led intelligence to track down the vehicle Blank was driving.
Also, on Sunday in Collier County, two drivers told a road patrol deputy from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office that a person had fired a gun at their cars on Vanderbilt Beach Road.
The driver of a red Chevrolet Camaro and the driver of a yellow Chevy Malibu both called 911 within minutes of each other to say that the driver of a silver Hyundai Genesis had shot at their cars unprovoked while each had been driving eastbound on Vanderbilt toward Collier Road.
Blank was stopped and detained at the Circle K gas station 4025 Pine Ridge Road. The Malibu and Camaro both had bullet holes, and Blank’s Genesis contained two spent shell casings and one bullet in his glovebox.
According to a CCSO deputy, Blank made delusional statements during his interview, claiming he was being pursued by flashing lights, that he had practiced magic and seen Satan.
We spoke to Blank’s younger brother, Josh Blank, who told us his older brother is not the person he loves and remembers.
“I’ve lost my brother,” Josh said. “Not at this moment in time. Over the last three or four years. It’s been a slow decline.”
Josh said his brother struggles with mental illness. For his family, every day is scary.
“It’s been like this for years,” Josh said. “We’ve been trying to get him help.”
Josh explained he doesn’t understand why his brother is hurting and capable of hurting others.
“I just wanted him to be safe, and I wanted the people around him to be safe,” Josh said.
Suspect Blank is no stranger to law enforcement. His permanent address is in Collier County, where he has a number of previous arrests for drug charges and assaults dating back to 2015.
Blank knew what to say to officers to make them go away.
“All they were able to do was ask him, ‘if he was a threat to other people? If he was planning on hurting himself? If he was having a mental health crisis?’ And if you just deny that, then, nothing happens,” Josh said.
But Josh knows better. Despite the pain. Josh said the love for his brother is unconditional. He told us he hopes stories such as that of his brother’s raises awareness to the need for more mental health resources for law enforcement because he knows his family is not the the only one struggling.
“It’s been tough though,” Josh said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Lee County Sheriff’s Office detectives coordinated investigative efforts with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Blank is in custody at Naples Jail Center on charges of shooting a missile into a vehicle, discharging a firearm from a vehicle and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.