Photo-Radar Van Driver Shot to Death - New York News

Photo-Radar Van Driver Shot to Death

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A suspect was arrested Monday in connection with the shooting death of a man operating a photo radar unit in Phoenix, but police said it's too soon to know the motive.

Thomas Patrick Destories, a 68-year-old Phoenix man, was booked into Maricopa County jail on suspicion of first-degree murder after he made "incriminating statements," Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said.

It's unclear whether Destories has a lawyer.

Doug Georgianni, 51, was shot Sunday night as he operated a photo radar van on a Phoenix freeway and later died at a hospital.

Hill said investigators believe Destories pulled up behind the van and then slowly pulled alongside it and fired a gun multiple times, hitting Georgianni in the driver's seat. Investigators don't believe Destories knew Georgianni.

Hill said Georgianni was on the phone with his wife when he was shot.

"It was a very tragic moment," Hill said. "You can imagine the horror for the widow."

Roger Vanderpool, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, called the crime "an act of cold-blooded murder, pure and simple."

"Doug Georgianni was performing his job," he said. "Doug was performing a job in an effort to make the freeways safer for the public," he said.

Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris said the killing was one of the most senseless that he's ever seen during his career.

Authorities said they found Destories less than 24 hours after the killing because a Department of Public Safety officer recognized the suspect vehicle, a Chevrolet Suburban, in video footage taken by the photo radar camera.

DPS Lt. Mark Remsey said he lived about a mile from Destories' home for 14 years ending in 2002 and frequently saw Destories working on his two Suburbans.

"I just started putting things together," Remsey said, adding that he never knew Destories personally.

Police conducted surveillance on Destories' home, and said they saw him move a Suburban from the front of his house to the backyard. They arrested him soon after he left his home on a motorcycle.

Georgianni had worked for three months for RedFlex Traffic Systems Inc., which has a contract with DPS to operate photo enforcement vehicles and fixed cameras on state highways.

Georgianni split his time between RedFlex and selling property in Mexico for Brooks, Byron & Associates, a real estate company in Mesa. Mark Daley, a broker who worked with Georgianni for more than two years, said the entire staff was in shock.

He said Georgianni was well-liked and enjoyed talking about his golf game. Daley couldn't imagine anyone wanting to hurt him.

"He always was very professional-acting but he always had a smile, a spring in his step," Daley said. "He was one of those guys you get around, you just instantly liked him."

Daley said he believes Georgianni took the job with RedFlex for supplemental income.

Critics say Arizona's statewide photo enforcement program, launched in September under former Gov. Janet Napolitano, is costly and unfair to motorists.

Its proponents say the program saves lives by slowing motorists and frees up police to tackle other problems.

The program sends notices to owners of vehicles photographed going at least 11 mph above the posted limit. Civil violations are punishable by a fine and surcharges totaling $181. Through Jan. 31, 34,000 motorists had paid their tickets.

Republican Rep. Sam Crump of Anthem, who is seeking to ban speed cameras on state highways, condemned Georgianni's killing as senseless.

"While we don't know at this time what the motives were for this senseless killing, many have understandably speculated that it was due to anger against the speed cameras," he said. "To the extent there is any truth to that, I call on all individuals to reduce the war of words on this topic. Whatever the motives for this crime were, there is absolutely no justification for such a heinous act."

Scottsdale-based Redflex Traffic Systems is a unit of Redflex Holdings Group, based in South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Jay Heiler, director of governmental affairs for RedFlex, said the company has taken its 40 mobile photo radar units out of service for the safety of the company's employees.

"Everyone at RedFlex is absolutely heartbroken for the loss of Doug Georgianni, and our hearts and prayers go out to his family," Heiler said. "We are grateful for his service to the company and for his service to the public, more importantly, doing an important job, during which he was ruthlessly killed."

In a previous act of violence involving the photo system, a 26-year-old man who damaged a fixed camera with a pickax in Glendale pleaded guilty to criminal damage and was sentenced in Maricopa County Superior Court last month to probation and fined more than $3,500.

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Associated Press Writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.

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