Police arrest suspect in string of Phoenix freeway shootings

Police arrested a man Friday for a string of seemingly random freeway shootings in Phoenix, adding that they had linked the man's gun to four of the 11 cars hit.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, was arrested at a Wal-Mart in Glendale, a suburb west of Phoenix at about 7 p.m., said Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey.

Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead, announcing the arrest at a news conference two hours later, said Merritt had not been formally charged yet.

Milstead said the suspect was arrested in the first four shootings, which took place on Aug. 29 and 30. The agency says the suspect faces a range of charges that include criminal endangerment, assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

The four shootings that police say he committed hit a tour bus, SUV and two cars, all of them on Interstate 10. No one was injured.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the suspect's father was adamant that his son had nothing to do with the shootings and that anyone who says he was involved is a "moron."

Leslie Merritt Sr. said he believes his son is being made a scapegoat by police who were desperate to make an arrest under immense 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 of his son.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.'s Facebook page, confirmed by his father, indicated he worked as a landscaper and was a gun enthusiast, but there was no indication as to why he might have been shooting at cars on the freeways.

It wasn't clear who was responsible for the other shootings.

"Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible," Milstead said, adding that the investigation continues.

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who received updates about the arrest from the police department, said the suspect tried to pawn the gun used in the shootings

Since Aug. 29, there have been 11 confirmed shootings of vehicles in the Phoenix area involving bullets or other projectiles. Most occurred along Interstate 10, a major route through the city. The Wal-Mart where the suspect was arrested is 6 miles north of where some of the shootings on I-10 occurred.

There have been no serious injuries, although a 13-year-old girl's ear was cut by glass after a bullet shattered a car window. There has not been a confirmed shooting in the case since Sept. 10.
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