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On Friday, Arizona police arrested Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, at a Wal-Mart in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, in connection with four of a string of 11 seemingly-random freeway shootings that took place over the past three weeks.
The first shooting took place on August 29th, the Arizona Republic reports. They continued through September 10th, and then stopped.
According to Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead, Merritt is a suspect in the first four shootings, which took place on August 29th and 30th. Police say Merritt hit a tour bus, an SUV, and two cars on Interstate 10; no one was hurt. Merritt faces charges including criminal endangerment, assault, and unlawful discharge of a firearm.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the suspect had tried to pawn the gun used in the shootings, the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, the investigation into the other shootings continues: “Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible,” Milstead said.
The suspect’s father, Leslie Merritt Sr., told the AP that anyone who believes his son was involved in the shootings is a “moron.” The elder Merritt believes police, under pressure to make an arrest, are scapegoating his son. “He has way too much value for human life to even take the slightest or remotest risk of actually injuring someone,” Merritt said.
Also on Friday, a judge ordered that a 19-year-old man detained at a convenience store on September 11th for questioning regarding the shootings be released. He was arrested for an alleged probation violation relating to marijuana found during a search of his house conducted after police received a tip that he was in possession of a gun, the AP reports, but authorities declined to explain why he was being questioned about the shootings.