Official charges filed against freeway shooting suspect

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Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was arrested on Sept. 18. He has said repeatedly that he was not involved in the freeway shootings. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was arrested on Sept. 18. He has said repeatedly that he was not involved in the freeway shootings. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Maricopa County Attorney's office has filed 16 felony counts against Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, in connection with a recent series of shootings that occurred on Interstate 10 in Phoenix.

The charges include four counts of drive-by shooting, five counts of aggravated assault, three counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm, three counts of disorderly conduct and one count of endangerment.

The charges are based on information developed over the course of the criminal investigation to date.

"I understand the frustration by some with respect to the limited amount of information released by the Department of Public Safety to date," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said. "However, I am equally grateful for the caution necessary to safeguard any prosecution of the defendant and the need to protect due process rights," he added.

The alleged offenses occurred between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30, and involved the shooting of four separate vehicles.

The timeline has changed since the Arizona Department of Public Safety arrested Merritt on Sept. 18. At that time, DPS reported three shootings took place on Aug. 29 and the fourth on Aug. 30. But after the manager of Mo' Money Pawn Shop in Phoenix said Merritt had pawned his gun on Aug. 30, hours before the fourth reported shooting, DPS changed the date.

Detectives now think a bullet struck the tire of a car traveling on I-10 on Aug. 27. The driver parked the car at the airport and apparently did not notice the flat tire until he returned on Aug. 30. Detectives say the bullet was recovered when the tire was changed.

[INFOGRAPHIC: Freeway shootings by date]

Investigators say Merritt's gun is forensically linked to all four shootings, but Leslie Merritt Sr. said he does not believe his son committed the crimes.

"We support my son; we love my son," he said. "We do feel that whoever is responsible for this is brought to justice, whoever that turns out to be."

Because he is a convicted felon, Merritt Sr. is unable to visit his son in jail. 

"I have received information from his fiance that he is obviously shocked and in disbelief, but he is doing otherwise as well as can be expected," he said. "We expect this will work itself out in the justice system."

Merritt's next-door neighbor in Glendale, Lori Reveles, also thinks he is innocent.

"I don't think it's him because he's too mellow," she said.

Merritt remains in custody on a $1 million bond. He is scheduled to appear at a status conference on Sept. 25.

[Special Section: Freeway shootings]

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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