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Radar van shooting suspect, 68, described as social, volatile

Thomas Patrick DeStories doesn’t have a lengthy criminal history, and the Phoenix resident didn’t have a history with the state’s photo-enforcement program.

Yet the 68-year-old is suspected of firing five rounds into a photo-enforcement mobile van Sunday night, killing 51-year-old Doug Georgianni who sat inside. DeStories is being held on a $2 million cash bond after his initial appearance on suspicion of first-degree murder in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Colleagues and relatives paint two images of DeStories: one of a gregarious outdoorsman, and one of a volatile man who enjoyed drinking and guns. DeStories was in his 30s when a bad economy drove him from New Jersey west with his brothers in the late 1970s, said former sister-in-law Alberta Warrington. DeStories found construction work in the Valley and also discovered a love of the desert, Warrington said.

“They were a pretty volatile set of brothers,” Warrington said of Tom and Michael DeStories, her former husband. “I was scared to leave (my son) with them ’cause they used to go out to the desert and shoot and drink and shoot and drink.”

DeStories’ affinity for the desert turned into work by the mid-1980s, with DeStories first taking tourists out to pan for gold along the Agua Fria River.

By the mid-1990s, DeStories founded Arrowhead Desert Tours and took corporate groups and tourists on desert jaunts.

Clay Adair bought the tour company from DeStories three years ago and said the suspect was a master at wooing clients.

“He loved talking to people and showing the desert. He’s just friendly and outgoing and loved chatting people up,” Adair said.

Adair said he was shocked when he saw the news.

“It’s totally out of character for him. He’s like the rest of us: a little bit on the cantankerous side. And nobody I know likes photo radar,” he said. “But he wasn’t anti-government, and he wasn’t a gun nut, either.”

Warrington, however, said she wasn’t surprised.

“Tom was always sort of protesting. He was the first one to bitch and moan about everything coming down, the government in your face and all that,” she said.

Phoenix police say a witness saw a Chevrolet Suburban pull up behind Georgianni’s van parked near Seventh Avenue and Loop 101 about 8:45 p.m. Sunday.

Investigators said Georgianni, a four-month employee of Redflex Traffic Systems, was sitting behind the driver’s seat doing paperwork when the Suburban pulled up and somebody fired the shots.

The witness gave police a description, and an observant Department of Public Safety officer who used to live in DeStories’ neighborhood led authorities to his home.

DeStories knew why police pulled him over Monday morning.

“I’m sorry, I was going to turn myself in. I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. I saw it on the news,” he told officers, according to court paperwork. “The gun is in the saddlebag.”

The van was hit five times with large-caliber bullets, according to the report, with three shots grouped in a tight pattern around the driver’s side window, near where Georgianni was seated.

Police found a magazine for a .45-caliber pistol in DeStories’ pocket when they arrested him, according to records.

The shooting prompted Redflex and American Traffic Solutions to pull the mobile units from highways and roads while they reassess security measures. ATS announced Tuesday night, though, that their cameras in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and Avondale will be back up today.


Victim’s fund

Doug Georgianni’s family has set up a fund at Bank of America.

Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch to: the Doug Georgianni Memorial Fund.

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