Suspected freeway shooter due back in court Friday

Posted: Updated:
DPS spokesman Bart Graves at Saturday's news briefing. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) DPS spokesman Bart Graves at Saturday's news briefing. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Leslie Merritt in court and DPS spokesman Bart Graves at press briefing. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Leslie Merritt in court and DPS spokesman Bart Graves at press briefing. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Merritt after his arrest Friday night. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Merritt after his arrest Friday night. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Merritt's booking photo. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Merritt's booking photo. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Mo Money Pawn Shop, where staffers were contacted by detectives from the Arizona Department of Public Safety asking for our cooperation in finding a certain caliber and make of handgun. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Mo Money Pawn Shop, where staffers were contacted by detectives from the Arizona Department of Public Safety asking for our cooperation in finding a certain caliber and make of handgun. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -

The prime suspect in the freeway shootings investigation is due back in court Friday. 

Leslie Merritt's status conference is set for September 25 at 8:30 a.m. Merritt was arrested Friday evening in connection with the recent string of freeway shootings in the Phoenix area.

He is currently  being held on a $1 million bond.

We've  done some digging into Merritt's criminal background. We found he was charged in April 2013 with several charges,  including assault and criminal damage. Both of those were dismissed.

However, he did plead guilty to failure to stop at the scene of an accident in December of that year

Meantime, DPS says that detectives reviewing a list of pawn shops that purchased or loaned money for any firearms that matched the make or caliber identified by the Crime Lab led to Merritt's arrest.

“This piece of the pie has been solved,” Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves, who said Merritt is the “prime suspect” in the first four shooting cases that began Aug. 29.

[SLIDESHOW: Valley freeway shootings]

DPS detectives collected the firearms beginning last week and “the crime lab test fired the weapon,” Graves said. “The bullets matched casings found in four of the vehicles.” 

“We have evidence that Merritt is the prime suspect.,” Graves said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Valley freeway shootings]

Graves wouldn't comment on a statement Merritt made in court Saturday that his gun had been in a pawn shop for the past two months.

Mo-Money Pawn Shop released this statement on Facebook late Friday night:

On Wednesday September 16th, 2015 management at Mo Money Pawn Shop were contacted by detectives from the Arizona Department of Public Safety asking for our cooperation in finding a certain caliber and make of handgun. Detectives and ballistic experts from AZ DPS examined several weapons and after further ballistics testing found the weapon they thought to be the match of the weapon used in several of the I-10 shootings. Pawn Shops in the state of Arizona are required by law to keep detailed records of all transactions conducted, and in this case (as well as several in the past) our diligence has assisted law enforcement officials in apprehending their suspect.

The judge on Saturday set Merritt's bail at $1 million after Maricopa County prosecutor Ed Leiter said the suspect presents a danger to the community.

[READ: I-10 shooting suspect makes 1st court appearance]

"The fear that was instilled in the occupants of those vehicles as well as the fear instilled on everyone driving on the I-10 and Valley freeways for several weeks was of such an intense nature that if this suspect is released or such a million-dollar cash bond is not put in place, the threat to the community must be preserved," Leiter told the judge.

Merritt said, "I could never afford that bond, though, and I got two kids, you know."

He was charged with four counts each of aggravated assault, criminal damage, disorderly conduct, endangerment, discharging a firearm within city limits, disorderly conduct involving a weapon, carrying out a drive-by shooting and intentional acts of terrorism.

Police say they've tied Merritt to four of the 11 confirmed shootings that have occurred between Aug. 29 and Sept. 10.

[MAP of freeway shootings; Suspect linked to first four]

Graves says a $50,000 reward is still available as investigators try to solve the other cases.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • Social Connect

  • Contact

    AZ Family