Arizona

Suspected TV Tower Vandal Struck Airport After Release From Jail, Phoenix Police Say

Micheal Preston committed vandalism at the antenna farm on South Mountain on February 15, then committed more vandalism at Sky Harbor Airport five days after being released from jail on his own recognizance, police say.
Micheal Preston committed vandalism at the antenna farm on South Mountain on February 15, then committed more vandalism at Sky Harbor Airport five days after being released from jail on his own recognizance, police say. Alan Stark via Flickr
The homeless man released from jail after being accused of destroying broadcast antenna equipment at South Mountain committed a similar crime five days later at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, police say.

Micheal Preston, 41, was found and re-arrested by Phoenix police this morning in connection with a burglary and criminal-damage case from February 20 at Sky Harbor.

Police say the case is similar to an earlier incident in which Preston was arrested and accused of destroying transmission-tower equipment on the summit of South Mountain. The act led to outages of nearly an hour for several local radio and TV stations.

click to enlarge Micheal Preston, 41 - MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Micheal Preston, 41
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Police, who had found Preston in a secured, outdoor area behind a locked fence, booked the man into jail on February 15 in connection with that crime, seeking prosecution on three felony counts.

Early the next day, Maricopa County Court Commissioner Sigmund Popko released Preston on his own recognizance.

Preston still hasn't been charged in that case. A spokeswoman with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said the office was seeking further information from police.

Police said Preston could have been suffering from mental illness or dehydration. He told police he had worked in "communications" sometime in his past.

Five days later, police investigated a "similar burglary/criminal damage case involving electrical equipment" at the airport, according to a statement by Phoenix Police Sergeant Vince Lewis.

Investigators gathered fingerprint evidence in the Sky Harbor case that tied him to both incidents, Lewis said.

Preston was released, in part, because of new guidelines from the state Supreme Court that encourage judges to release suspects who aren't seen as flight risks but can't afford to post even a minimal bond to make bail. The policy goes into effect officially in April, and several new laws are in the works in the Arizona Legislature that makes other reforms to the bail system.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.