Van driver’s killing a backlash to photo radar?by JJ Hensley on Apr. 21, 2009, under Local, Special
Thomas Patrick Destories, 68, reportedly incriminated himself
It has come under attack from protesters, politicians and even a pickax-wielding resident, but sentiment against Arizona’s photo-enforcement program had not turned to bloodshed until Sunday night.
Doug Georgianni, 51, of Cave Creek, was shot and killed while sitting in a van along the highway and monitoring cameras that snap photos of speeders.
Phoenix police arrested Thomas Patrick Destories, 68, on Monday in connection with the murder. Police said Destories was not photographed speeding, but they refused to speculate on motives.
“Whether you agree or disagree with photo enforcement, what happened last night, folks, was an act of cold-blooded murder,” state Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool said at a Monday news conference.
The shooting led both photo-enforcement providers in Arizona, Redflex and American Traffic Solutions, to suspend use of the mobile-enforcement vans, including the one in Tucson, until they can reassess their security procedures.
Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened Sunday night. They offered this version of events.
Georgianni, a four-month employee of Redflex, was in a photo-enforcement van parked on a dirt shoulder off the Loop 101 near Seventh Avenue shortly before 9 p.m., when an SUV slowly crept up alongside Georgianni’s van, and someone inside opened fire.
A witness saw an older-model, two-toned SUV slowly pull away and exit the freeway.
Later, DPS Lt. Mark Remsey, who used to live in the neighborhood, thought the description of the SUV sounded familiar and drove through the area about 2:30 a.m. Monday. He saw the truck parked in front of a house.
“It kept going through my head that I recognized that unusual Suburban,” he said.
Police watched the house until a man, later identified as Destories, moved the truck in “an obvious attempt” to hide the vehicle, Phoenix police Sgt. Andy Hill said. Police arrested Destories as he left on his motorcycle a short time later.
Georgianni, an Arizona State University graduate, leaves behind his wife, Jean, his parents, six siblings and nieces and nephews.
Destories was booked on suspicion of first-degree murder.
He has not received any tickets through the DPS photo-enforcement program, records and police say.
Doug Smith, a former employee at Destories’ desert-tour business, said Destories had purchased a reflective license-plate cover for one of his cars and deemed it effective after the cameras snapped Destories but tickets never followed.
Public sentiment against photo enforcement started growing in September when the DPS began rolling out its program, which was to have 60 fixed cameras and 40 mobile units around the state.
State legislators are considering bills that could dismantle the program. Authorities said Georgianni’s death will not stop the program.
Jan Strauss, a former Mesa police chief, said the shooting smacked of vigilantism.
“If you hate photo radar, and you want to have an impact, you shouldn’t be doing anything like vigilantism,” she said. “If you don’t like it, go to the public forum. Start a public debate. Going out on your own, breaking the law doing destructive things isn’t the answer.”
Strauss was referring to Thomas Munroe Townsend.
Townsend, 26, took a pickax to a photo-enforcement camera near 59th Avenue and the Loop 101 late last year.