- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The latest on the investigation and arrest in a series of freeway shootings in the Phoenix area (all times local):

11 p.m. A newly released charging document filed in the case of a landscaper arrested in connection with four Phoenix freeway shootings say investigators determined that the suspect had not pawned his gun at the time of the incidents.

At a court hearing Saturday, Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. said he had pawned the gun at the time of the shootings on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31.

The document also says that investigators determined the bullets and the bullet fragments from four incidents came from a gun that was owned by the suspect.

The test (of Merritt’s gun by the Arizona Department of Public Safety “fired bullets (that) were matched to the bullets and bullet fragments from the four cases …,” the document says.


2:10 p.m.

A police spokesman says investigators identified their suspect in a string of Phoenix freeway shootings by checking pawn shops for guns matching the caliber of shell casings at the crime scenes.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Saturday that detectives focused on a gun pawned by Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., and when crime lab technicians test-fired it, it was a match.

Merritt is being held on $1 million bail.

Graves wouldn’t comment on a statement Merritt made in court Saturday that his gun had been in a pawn shop for the past two months.

Police say they’ve tied Merritt to four of the 11 confirmed shootings that have occurred between Aug. 29 and Sept. 10.

Graves says a $50,000 reward is still available as investigators try to solve the other cases.


11:10 a.m.

The man arrested in the Phoenix freeway shootings told a judge during his first court appearance that authorities have “the wrong guy.”

The judge set bail at $1 million for Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. after a prosecutor said he presents a danger to the community.

Merritt, a 21-year-old landscaper, then asked the judge if he could speak. After the judge warned him that anything he says could be used against him, Merritt said he’s not the shooter and that he had no access to his gun because it’s been in a pawn shop for two months.

Police say he shot four cars on Aug. 29 and 30 on Interstate 10 in Phoenix and they have forensic evidence linking his gun to the shootings.


9:30 a.m.

A 21-year-old landscaper is expected to be charged in connection with four shootings along Phoenix-area freeways that have kept drivers on edge for weeks.

Maricopa County Superior Court officials say Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Saturday, a day after his arrest related to shootings on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31.

A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey says Merritt was taken into custody around 7 p.m. Friday at a Wal-Mart in Glendale, a suburb west of Phoenix.

Arizona Department of Public Safety director Col. Frank Milstead says Merritt is in custody because the weapon he owns is forensically linked to the crimes.

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