Driver arrested in Pecos Road death was high on multiple drugs

The driver who fatally hit a competitive cyclist on Pecos Road in November has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after an investigation showed he was speeding while high on multiple drugs, Phoenix police said Tuesday.

Police arrested Diego Ivan Venegas, 24, on Christmas Eve after toxicology tests found heroin, morphine, codeine and marijuana in his blood stream when he hit Dwayne “Highly” Falkner with his car, according to police reports.

Venegas, a Phoenix resident, was driving westbound on Pecos Road, a popular cycling route, on Nov. 12 around 9:10 a.m. when he hit Falkner from behind near 17th Avenue, police said. Venegas stopped at the scene and cooperated with police, authorities said.

The intersection

The 60-year-old Falkner, an avid cyclist, mountain bike racer and philanthropist was attempting to cross a right-turn lane to continue westbound, police said.

The intersection requires riders to merge from a bike lane that breaks off and changes positions in the road just as a right-turn lane for cars appears near 17th Avenue. This can require cars and bikes to criss-cross in front or behind each other.

Falkner was halfway into the right lane when Venegas hit him, according to police reports.

‘Erratic behavior’

At the scene, Venegas could not explain why he was traveling in the area after working a 12-hour shift at Spinelli’s Pizzeria, police reports show. He had constricted pupils, eyelid tremors, rapid speech and gave a poor performace on walking and turning.

Police said Venegas also played air guitar, threw rocks at a cactus at the collision site and attempted to get into the driver’s seat of an unmarked truck.

Venegas was released on a $3,600 bond on Dec. 29, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and court records. He will be arraigned at Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Community action

Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio, whose district includes Ahwatukee, where Falkner was killed, held a meeting on Nov. 20 with city officials, including Kerry Wilcoxon, a city traffic engineer, to discuss Pecos Road safety with cyclists and community members.

Wilcoxon said Tuesday in an email to Clipped In that city officials recently completed data collection for crashes and traffic volume, and on Tuesday morning they met with representatives from the Pecos Road Cycling Taskforce, a group formed from the November meeting.

He said they discussed options for changes to the striping plan on the road near where the crash occured.

“The representatives will be meeting with the full taskforce later today to discuss the options,” Wilcoxon said. “We should hear back sometime early next week.”

Stay tuned to for more details as they become available.

Main photo from FOX10 video

Sarah Muench