Friends say Scottsdale father wrongly killed in road rage incident

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - A Scottsdale father of three shot to death in a road rage incident is being remembered by friends as a slow and cautious driver.

ABC15 sat down with one of victim Paul Thomas Pearson's closest friends. Brian Winski told ABC15 he wonders what could have happened for the situation to get so far out of control.

"My guess is, without a doubt, that Tom was probably driving slow because that was just Tom," Winski said. "If the speed limit was 45, Tom was probably doing 40. It just was his way."

Winski thinks Pearson's (Tom as he was known to friends) slow driving habit may have been what started the deadly road rage fight between him and David Appleton. The fight ended with Appleton shooting Pearson on Thursday.

"Was it senseless? That's an understatement," Winski said. "There's a wife of 20 some years and three beautiful girls that are now without a father because some idiot decided to shoot a man."

Initially, 59-year-old Appleton told Scottsdale investigators Pearson, 50, was tailgating him while driving north on Pima Road, according to police. Appleton reportedly drove into the back parking area of a CVS near the intersection of Pima and Pinnacle Peak roads.

Appleton claims Pearson followed behind, got out of his car and approached him. Appleton opened his window and told police Pearson reached inside and started choking him. When Pearson wouldn't let go, Appleton told police he pulled out his gun and shot Pearson once in the chest.

Police said they weren't able to find any evidence Pearson choked Appleton.

In addition, investigators have been in touch with Pearson's relative who happened to be on the phone with Pearson while everything was happening.

Friends say Pearson was a kind, gentle person; the type more likely to help out a fellow motorist than get into a fight with.

"I guess the best description of Tom would be, just a comfortable cowboy. He's just laid back, and relaxed. He's not an aggressive or violent or belligerent person," Winski said.

ABC15 dug into Appleton's past and found that this road rage incident isn't the first time he's had trouble on the road. His record shows him guilty of several speeding violations, and driving without insurance. Appleton's latest violation came in September when he was caught driving in an HOV lane when he should not have been.

Appleton was arrested and charged with second degree murder Friday.

Appleton works as a criminal defense lawyer in the Valley.

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