A Glendale, Ariz., man is in police custody and faces 28 felony charges in connection with four of the 11 shooting incidents that began this past month and that have terrorized motorists in the Phoenix metro area.
The suspect – 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. – professed his innocence during his initial appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court. He remains in custody on a $1 million bond.
He is charged with four counts each of intentional terrorism, committing a drive-by shooting, endangerment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage, disorderly conduct and discharging a firearm within city limits.
“All I have to say is I’m the wrong guy. I tried telling the detectives that. My gun’s been in the pawn shop the last two months. I haven’t even had access to a weapon,” a handcuffed Merritt said in a video of the arraignment that was posted on the website of The Arizona Republic newspaper.
According to Arizona DPS spokesman Bart Graves, Merritt was cooperative and arrested without incident on Friday, Sept. 18 at a Walmart in Glendale. Graves said investigators were able to recover a handgun believed to be the weapon used to shoot four vehicles on Interstate 10 in Phoenix the weekend of Aug. 29-30. Since then, at least seven other shootings or incidents of projectiles striking vehicles have occurred along the I-10 corridor. Only one person – a 13-year-old girl who was cut by shattered glass in the initial attacks – has been injured so far in the shooting incidents.
Graves said DPS is investigating a potential “copycat” shooter in the other seven incidents. He declined to answer specific questions about the gun, and referred those questions to the charging documents on file in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Earlier this month, Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies arrested three teenage boys who were firing rocks from a slingshot at other motorists in suburban Phoenix.
Graves said the $50,000 reward for information in the case remains in effect. Anyone with information about the shooting or who observes suspicious persons or activity should call the Arizona DPS at 602-644-5805, or Silent Witness, an anonymous crime hotline for the Phoenix metro area at 480-948-6377.
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