David Appleton -- Scottsdale Defense Attorney Accused of Murdering Motorist -- Has History of Road-Rage Incidents

David Appleton, a Scottsdale defense attorney who once served as the president of the Phoenix Trial Lawyer's Association, fatally shot a motorist last week during an apparent road-rage incident.

Turns out, Appleton's got a bit of a history in the road-rage department.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, Appleton's called Scottsdale police twice this year to report road-rage incidents. In both cases, police determined Appleton was the aggressor.

In March, Appleton -- who always travels with a gun in his vehicle "for protection" -- called 9-1-1 to report that he'd been cut off by another motorist and that he planned on pulling out his gun, presumably to scare or injure the other driver. The 9-1-1 operator advised him not to do it, but Appleton said he planned to anyway. In that case, Appleton didn't shoot anyone, and no charges were filed against him or the other motorist.

In another incident this year, Appleton called police to report that he spotted a woman driving 100 miles per hour. He followed her to her gated community where his pursuit of the woman ended without violence.

Neither Appleton or the other driver was cited, but police determined that based on the 9-1-1 call, Appleton was the aggressor.

With two calls to police already this year to essentially report his own road rage, Appleton didn't bother to call police on Thursday, when his latest road-rage incident ended with him fatally shooting 50-year-old Paul Pearson, a father of three.

According to Appleton, about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, he left a Phoenix restaurant where he'd had dinner with friends. As he was driving to his North Phoenix home, he sped up to catch a green light at the intersection of Pima Road and Thompson Peak Parkway, but he was unable to make it because Pearson's car was in the way.

While stopped at the intersection, Pearson and Appleton each rolled down their windows and exchanged profanities.

Appleton claims Pearson followed him for about a mile before he pulled into the parking lot of a nearby CVS pharmacy. He claims Pearson followed him into the parking lot -- and that's when he removed his loaded .38 Special from his glove box and placed it on the passenger seat.

Pearson got out of his car and approached Appleton's window as the two men continued to argue. Pearson, Appleton claims, reached in the window and grabbed the attorney's wrist. Appleton was able to break free from Pearson's grip, he says, but Pearson then grabbed him by the throat.

Appleton claims he was unable to breathe and feared he might pass out as Pearson choked him. He says he then grabbed his gun and pointed it at Pearson.

"Don't shoot me with that gun," Pearson then warned.

Appleton fired anyway, hitting Pearson in the chest.

Pearson died on the way to the hospital after Appleton called police to tell them he'd just shot another motorist.

The entire time Pearson and Appleton argued, Pearson was on his cell phone talking with his cousin. He told her he'd seen a man try to run a red light and that he was apparently upset with him. The cousin later told police she heard the two men argue before a brief scuffle. The phone then went dead.

Police interviewed Appleton following the shooting. They determined there was no evidence to suggest he had been choked or that Pearson even grabbed his wrist -- the only evidence of any injury was a broken fingernail on Appleton's pinky.

Police asked him why he didn't call police when he saw Pearson following him -- as he'd done during the prior road-rage incidents. He had no answer, other than to say it was "stupid."

Appleton was booked on one count of second-degree murder. Because of his "repetitive behavior of continually being involved in traffic altercations," police recommended that his bail be set at $500,000.

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James King
Contact: James King