The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced Friday night the arrest of 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., alleging that he is responsible for at least some of the recent shootings of vehicles primarily along Interstate 10 in Phoenix.
Speaking at a press conference this evening, flanked by U.S. Marshal David Gonzales and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, DPS Director Frank Milstead said his agency believes Merritt began the spree, but he also said there were likely copycats involved in the 11 shootings, two of which were on other freeways, that have terrorized Phoenix since late August.
"Tonight, we've made an arrest in the I-10 shootings that occurred on August 29, that day, and on the morning of August 31," said Milstead. "The subject is in custody because the weapon that he owned was forensically linked to these crimes."
There have been no fatalities in the shootings, and only one injury, a 13-year-old girl whose ear was cut by flying glass in the very first shooting.
Milstead said the DPS had linked Merritt to at least four of the shootings.
He declined to comment further, saying that followup warrants were being served and that interviews were under way.
Merritt was taken into custody by DPS' SWAT Team about 7 p.m. at a Walmart at 57th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, sometime after apparently pawning his weapon at the Mo Money Pawn shop on Indian School Road in Phoenix.
A Facebook page for a "Les Merritt, Jr." in Glendale appears to be the same man taken into custody.
The page features numerous posts related to right-wing conspiracy theories and pro-Second Amendment propaganda. Some posts also feature news stories on the I-10 shooter.
DPS recently upped its reward for the shooter to $50,000, though agency spokesman Bart Graves said he didn't believe the reward led to Merritt's arrest.
"I would say at this point, no," he said. "This appears to be good old-fashioned police work."
Graves said Merritt had not yet been booked and was still being questioned.
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