The Phoenix freeway-shootings investigation took state and federal law-enforcement officials on a path of evidence that started with bullet fragments, led to a 9mm handgun and culminated with the arrest of a man who insists he is innocent, the Arizona Republic reports. Law-enforcement officials attributed the arrest to a combination of ballistics, shoe-leather police work and following the suspect, Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., on social media. Merritt faces 28 felony charges: four counts each of intentional terrorism, committing a drive-by shooting, endangerment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage, disorderly conduct and discharging a firearm within city limits.
In court Saturday, Merritt said, “You've got the wrong guy. My gun's been in the pawn shop for the last two months. I don't even have access to a weapon.” Investigators said that was not the case during the shootings. A prosecutor requested a $1 million bond, saying Merritt “presents a dramatic and profound threat to the community.” Roberts agreed. Before Merritt was led away in handcuffs, he told the commissioner he could never afford to post the bond. Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said the search for Merritt started with identifying bullet fragments from the first four shootings, on Aug. 29 and Aug. 30. Graves said ballistics tests established a match between bullet fragments recovered from four shootings and the weapon, recovered from a pawnshop.