The Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced today that it is formally charging Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. with 16 counts of criminal activity in association with a series of shootings on Interstate 10 in Phoenix during the last few weeks.
His charges include four counts of drive-by shooting, five counts of aggravated assault, three counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm, three counts of disorderly conduct, and one count of endangerment — slightly different from the charges he was told he'd be facing at his initial court hearing last Saturday.
Merritt was arrested on Friday September 18, after the Arizona Department of Public Safety discovered that the bullets used in four of the shooting incidents were discharged from a gun he owned. Merritt admitted to owning the gun but claimed he had pawned it for money months before the shootings began in late August, while the DPS says it has evidence showing that "at the times of the shootings in question, the firearm was not in pawn status."
Governor Doug Ducey announced the arrest in a tweet last Friday that some are calling inappropriate: "We got him!" Ducey tweeted.
An MCAO statement today reminds the public: "The charges announced today are not evidence of guilt. Merritt is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
As Merritt remains in custody on a $1 million bond — a sum of money he told the judge at his initial court hearing he could not afford to pay — the DPS is continuing its search for others involved in the shooting spree.
Beginning on August 27 and lasting through Thursday September 10, 11 vehicles were hit by bullets or projectiles. No one was severely injured, though one girl did get cut with glass from a broken windshield. All but two of the incidents occurred on I-10, and law enforcement says it has good reason to believe there are multiple shooters or copycat shooters out there.
A $50,000 reward remains in place for any tip that helps lead to the shooter.
Read the probable cause statement warranting Merritt's Arrest below:
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