Arizona officials name suspect arrested in Phoenix’s Interstate 10 shootings
The man suspected of being the I-10 shooter responsible for a series of shootings that unnerved motorists along an Arizona freeway was arrested on Friday night, authorities said.
“We got him!” said Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Twitter.
Bart Graves, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, identified the suspect as Leslie Allen Merritt, 21, of Glendale, a Phoenix suburb. He was arrested outside a Wal-Mart around 7 p.m. by members of the department’s SWAT team. A woman and a 5-year-old child were with him at the time. They were not taken into custody.
Graves, speaking during a televised news conference from Phoenix, said local, state and federal authorities participated in the manhunt. He did not provide details on what led to the arrest, saying, “This is the result of old-fashioned police work.”
Merritt has not been formally charged but is expected to face a range of charges, such as unlawful discharge of a firearm and aggravated assault, Graves said. He said Merritt had a criminal record but did not elaborate.
Department of Public Safety Col. Frank Milstead said ballistics linked the gunman to shootings that occured on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31.
From Aug. 29 to Sept. 10, at least 11 vehicles were shot at along a stretch of Interstate 10 from central Phoenix to an area about five miles west of downtown, police said. Authorities said live ammunition was used in at least eight of the incidents.
One victim, a 13-year-old girl, suffered injuries after the car she was riding in was shot at in late August, though it was not clear whether she was struck by gunfire or debris from a car window. There were no deaths.
A 19-year-old Arizona man was taken in for questioning in the shootings last week, but was ultimately charged with an unrelated drug offense. Police had described the man, Oscar Munoz, as a “person of interest” in the shootings and several other cases.
Munoz was released from custody earlier Friday, according to a report in the Arizona Republic. Graves said Friday night that Merritt was not connected to Munoz.
Authorities had posted large signs over roadways in the Phoenix area urging residents to call the “I-10 shooter tip line” if they had information about the gunman.
Despite the arrest, the signs will remain up throughout the weekend, Graves said, because they might prompt someone to provide more information that could bolster the case against Merritt.
The shootings in Arizona came months after a series of seemingly random shootings stoked similar panic in northern Colorado. Those attacks left two people dead and two others injured, and the shooter remains at large.
Earlier this week, police in Colorado increased the reward for information leading to an arrest in those shootings to $50,000.
Authorities in Arizona and Colorado have been in contact about the cases, but have said the attacks did not appear to be linked.
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