Suspect in 4 of 11 Phoenix freeway shootings is indicted
PHOENIX (AP) — A grand jury on Friday indicted a man suspected in some of the freeway shootings that have rattled the Phoenix area since late last month.
The indictment of 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. replaces a 16-count criminal complaint announced earlier in the week.
Merritt, of suburban Glendale, was indicted on 15 counts, including aggravated assault, unlawful discharge of a firearm, disorderly conduct, endangerment and carrying out a drive-by shooting.
See images related to the Arizona freeway shootings:
Prosecutors did not file terrorism charges that authorities originally sought against the landscaper and father of two who was arrested Sept. 18 at a Wal-Mart.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery previously said Arizona's terrorism laws enacted after 9/11 focus mostly on protecting public utilities from attack and would not apply to the freeway shootings.
Using ballistics tests, Arizona Department of Public Safety detectives tied Merritt to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways between Aug. 27 and Sept. 10.
State police said copycats might be shooting guns or other weapons on freeways, so the investigation remains open.
Eight cars were hit with bullets and three were struck with projectiles such as BBs or pellets, most while driving along Interstate 10 metropolitan Phoenix, the Department of Public Safety has said.
Only one person was injured in the shootings: On Aug. 29, a bullet pierced the windshield of an SUV on Interstate 10 and the broken glass slightly cut the ear of a 13-year-old girl who was a passenger.
Merritt is charged in that shooting and three others where state police recovered bullet fragments from vehicles.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 1. A public defender has been assigned to Merritt's case, but that lawyer's name wasn't immediately available Friday.
At his initial court appearance Sept. 19, Merritt insisted that officers arrested the wrong person. He said that during the time the shootings occurred, he didn't have the pistol police recently recovered from a pawn shop.
But the owner of the Mo Money Pawn Shop in Phoenix said he had turned over logs and surveillance video to authorities that showed Merritt pawned the gun on Aug. 30.
Authorities said that puts Merritt's pawning of his gun after the four shootings he's charged with carrying out.