Arizona Freeway Suspect Denies Involvement

Credit: Morgue File

Credit: Morgue File

A suspect in the spree of highway shootings that took place in Phoenix, Arizona has been arrested and remains in custody.

The suspect, 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt, denies involvement in the shootings and insists to authorities that they have the “wrong guy.” He claims his gun has been in a pawnshop—authorities saw him sell the gun to a pawnshop the same day of his arrest.

He kept insisting on being innocent during his Saturday arraignment. Merritt is charges with four counts each of drive-by shooting, intentional acts of terrorism, discharging a firearm within city limits, aggravated assault, endangerment, criminal damage, and disorderly conduct involving a weapon. Authorities insist he is a still a threat to the community.

The judge set Merritt’s bond at $1 million and will have to wear an ankle bracelet if he posts it. Merritt then asked the judge if he could speak, to which the judge repleied that anything he said could be used against him during his trial. He nodded.

“All I got to say is that I’m the wrong guy. I tried telling the detectives that,” Merritt said, also stating that his gun has been in the pawnshop for the past two months. “I haven’t even had access to a weapon.”

“I can never afford that bond,” he added. “I got two kids.”

The judge stated that there was “very sufficient probable cause” to charge Merritt.

During a news conference on Saturday, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman, Bart Graves, declined to comment on Merritt’s denial.

Authorities say Merritt owned a “forensically linked” weapon. It was linked to the first four shootings of the eleven that occurred since Aug. 29. The shootings occurred up until Sept. 10. The only person injured was a 13-year-old passenger who was hit by flying glass.

Frank Milstead, director of Arizona Department of Public Safety, said that copycats could have done some of the shootings that occurred. One incident was a result of road rage, some were caused by bullets, and some caused by projectiles like BBs or pellets.

Graves stated that the Department of Public Safety, along with other agencies, are still searching for possible suspects involved, and offer a reward of $50,000 to anyone who can assist with information that could lead to an arrest.

“There’s some elation here that this piece of the pie has been solved, but we are still feverishly working to wrap up all of the loose ends,” Graves said. “There is limited relief.”

Maricopa County prosecutor, Edward Leiter, insisted that Merritt should be held in custody leading up to his next court hearing on Sept. 25, even if he didn’t physically harm anyone, “This suspect presents a dramatic and profound threat to the community.”

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