Former freeway shooting suspect denies violating court order

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Leslie Merritt Jr. Leslie Merritt Jr.
GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Glendale police released a report and audio recordings from the arrest of Leslie Merritt Jr. for violating an order of protection.

The former freeway shooting suspect was arrested the last week of October after his ex-girlfriend said he showed up at her apartment and threatened her. Earlier that month, Merritt was served with an order of protection that prohibited him from being at the apartment complex near Maryland and 67th avenues.

The police report indicates that the officer contacted Merritt’s ex-girlfriend, who then told police she and her uncle saw him on the property during the evening hours of Oct. 26. While he was reportedly there, Merritt allegedly told his ex-girlfriend, who was reportedly pregnant with his child, that he wanted to know if the baby was a boy.

The ex-girlfriend also told police that Merritt told her that if she had an abortion, he would kill her and her family.

Police also interviewed the ex-girlfriend’s uncle, who also told police he heard Merritt make threats from the apartment complex parking lot. The uncle said he heard Merritt threaten to kill the ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend.

The Glendale officer who responded to the complaint audio recorded his contact with the ex-girlfriend, uncle, as well as the arrest of Merritt and a short interview with him after he was in custody.

On the audio recording you can hear officers knock on Merritt’s door and tell him he is under arrest for violating a court order. Merritt seems a little groggy and it was established that he had been sleeping.

In the short interview by police, after being read his Miranda Rights, Merritt told police he was not on the property, that he knew that he had an order of protection against him and that he had no idea why his ex-girlfriend would call police and say he was there.

Merritt was charged with violating the order and making threats. His next court appearance is set for early December.

[Special section: Phoenix freeway shootings]

Merritt was arrested in September 2015 after authorities said ballistic tests tied him to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways last summer.

The shootings caused panic on Phoenix-area freeways, where 11 vehicles were hit in August and September. The head of the Department of Public Safety said the shootings were the work of a domestic terrorist, and authorities heightened patrols and surveillance in pursuit of a suspect.

Detectives took Merritt into custody on Sept. 18, prompting Gov. Doug Ducey to declare "We got him!" on Twitter five minutes after the arrest.

His lawyers immediately began raising questions about the evidence, citing ballistics information and phone records they say provided an alibi for their client.

They also pointed to road rage shootings that happened on Phoenix-area freeways after Merritt was arrested, saying the cases were proof that the culprit was still out there.

In April, a judge allowed Merritt to be released from jail amid questions about evidence authorities say links him to the crimes.

Lawyers for the 22-year-old landscaper filed a lawsuit last month, claiming Arizona authorities rushed to judgment and failed to provide evidence that he was present at any of the shootings.

The lawsuit alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and aiding and abetting tortious conduct.

Merritt's lawsuit did not specify the amount of money he is seeking. His attorneys previously said he was seeking $10 million from the state, Maricopa County and the office of County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

[RELATED: New details emerge in latest arrest of former freeway shooting suspect]

[RELATED: Former freeway shooting suspect out of jail]

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

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