Police have a suspect in the Phoenix highway shootings who they believe is responsible for the sniper rampage that has put motorists on alert for a good month. Leslie Allen Merritt, 21, was arrested Friday night after a SWAT team cornered him at a Walmart store located in Glendale around 7 p.m.
Merritt appeared in court Saturday and told a judge that cops have “the wrong guy,” Fox News reports.
The Phoenix highway shootings suspect was arraigned on a series of charges that include “four counts each of carrying out a drive-by shooting and intentional acts of terrorism.” He’s being held on $1 million cash bail.
Merritt told Judge Lisa Roberts that there’s been a huge mistake.
“All I have to say is I’m the wrong guy. I tried telling the detectives that.”
The suspect claims that he didn’t have access to a firearm because the gun he once owned had been in a pawn shop for the past two months. Investigators, however, “forensically linked” the man’s gun to four of the 11 cars hit.
Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead announced, after the Phoenix highway shootings suspect was arrested, that Merritt is facing other charges as well, having to do with criminal endangerment, assault, and unlawful discharge of a firearm.
Milstead goes on to say that Merritt was arrested in the first four shootings, which happened on Aug. 29 and 30. Bullets from Merritt’s gun hit a tour bus, SUV, and two cars on a portion of Interstate 10 in Phoenix. No injuries were reported at that time.
Merritt’s father, Leslie Merritt, Sr., was reportedly “physically ill” upon hearing of his son’s arrest. Merritt told the Associated Press that he thinks authorities are using his son as a “scapegoat” because police were under extreme pressure to find a suspect in the highway shootings. The suspect’s father insists that his son’s value for human life makes him the wrong guy suspected in all of this.
Interestingly enough, a dark grey Saturn from the Walmart parking lot was being impounded, and a woman was in custody. It’s unclear why she was being questioned — or what it was all about.
There have been 11 confirmed shootings of vehicles since August 29 involving bullets or a form of projectiles. September 10 was the last confirmed sniper attack. No injuries have been reported, other than a 13-year-old girl’s ear being cut after a bullet shattered a window of the vehicle she was in.
ABC 15 reports that Leslie Merritt, Jr.’s next court appearance is set for September 25 at 8:30 a.m. The report adds that the Phoenix highway shootings suspect is facing about 20 felony charges in all. Another report by the same news source reveals that Merritt has a criminal history.
[Photo Credit: ABC 15/surveillance video screenshot]