- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 19, 2015

Police arrested a suspect in connection to a string of shootings along a major highway in Phoenix, Arizona, authorities confirmed late Friday night.

“We got him! DPS SWAT team is in custody of the individual suspected of I-10 shootings. Apprehended moments ago,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted.

“Great work by @Arizona_DPS investigators and SWAT team. Investigation remains ongoing,” he added in a later tweet.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, was arrested at a Wal-Mart in Glendale, a suburb of west Phoenix around 7 p.m., said Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Mr. Ducey, The Associated Press reported.

At a late Friday news conference, law enforcement officials gave few details of the suspect and did not release his name, but they said he owned a gun that was “forensically linked” to the first four shootings on the highway, Reuters reported.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank Milstead told reporters Mr. Merritt had not been formally charged yet.

The department has been investigating 11 possible vehicle shootings since Aug. 29 on a roughly 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10. No one has been killed, but a 13-year-old girl suffered a slight cut to her ear when a bullet shattered the glass window of a car she was traveling in.

State and federal law enforcement were confident Mr. Merritt was involved in at least the first four shootings, Mr. Milstead said, Reuters reported.

The four shootings that police say he committed hit a tour bus, SUV and two cars, AP reported.

Mr. Milstead did not rule out the possibility that the other shooting incidents were the work of copycats along the roadway.

Bart Graves, a spokesman for Arizona DPS, said police had been watching Mr. Merritt for a while.

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the suspect was caught trying to pawn the gun he used in the shootings.

The suspect’s father, Leslie Allen Merritt Sr., told AP he believes his son is being made a scapegoat by police who were desperate to make an arrest under public pressure.

“He has way too much value for human life to even take the slightest or remotest risk of actually injuring someone,” he said.

Mr. Merritt Jr.’s  Facebook page, confirmed by his father, indicated the suspect worked as a landscaper and was a gun enthusiast, but gave no insight as to why he might have been shooting at cars on the freeway.

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