The four shootings that police say he committed hit a tour bus, SUV and two cars, all of them on Interstate 10.
Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., the suspect in a series of Phoenix freeway shootings who was arrested Friday, told a judge Saturday that his gun was in a pawn shop when the shootings occurred August 29 and 30.
The suspect’s father said Merritt was being made a scapegoat by police who had come under public pressure to make an arrest.
Soft-spoken and handcuffed, a 21-year-old landscaper insists that he is not responsible for a string of Phoenix freeway shootings and that his gun has been sitting in a pawn shop for months.
Bart Graves, a spokesman for DPS, told the media the bullets recovered in the initial four shootings match a gun Merritt sold to Mo-Money Pawn.
The judge set bail at $1 million for Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. after a prosecutor said he presents a danger to the community.
Police have said the suspect was “forensically linked” to the first four shootings along Interstate 10 in downtown Phoenix.
“People are in fear of him”, Peter Vronsky, author of “Serial Killers: The Methods and Madness of Monsters”, told the Arizona Republic.
He said authorities are still offering a $50,000 reward for information on the shootings and freeway message boards will continue to display a hotline number for tips.
“Merritt’s arrest is “different in the sense that crowd sourcing didn’t catch the “‘bad guy, ‘ but it’s eerily similar when we make blanket statements of affirmation prematurely”, he says. He even says that the gun that was used had been sitting in a pawn shop for months and was not in his possession at the time. There have been no serious injuries, although a 13-year-old girl’s ear was cut by glass when a bullet shattered a vehicle window.
Graves said Merritt pawned the handgun, which investigators collected from the shop.
He said he has not yet spoke directly to his son since the arrest.
Colonel Frank Milstead, center, Director of Department of Public…
Brandon Copeland said he witnessed Merritt’s arrest while doing some Friday night shopping at Wal-Mart.
Last week, Milstead said that he believed there could be multiple shooters and has previously called the incidents ‘domestic terrorism crimes’.
“I’m extremely happy that he’s in a cage at Fourth Avenue Jail where he belongs”, says Robert McDonald, Jr.
It’s unclear whether the suspect is connected to the other seven shootings.
Schools even kept the buses off this road to be safe. They distributed thousands of fliers in neighborhoods along the freeway this week to raise awareness about the shootings and the reward, but they have been tight-lipped about any details in the case.
Meanwhile, Oscar de la Torre Munoz, who had been detained since September 11 in connection to the shootings, was freed on Friday.
“At the time of the shootings in question the firearm was not in pawn status”, the police said in a report.
Munoz had been sentenced to probation on an endangerment conviction for excessive speeding and fleeing from police.