Former suspect in Phoenix freeway shootings fighting to get gun back

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Police initially said ballistics tests concluded bullet fragments recovered from four of the shooting were fired from Merritt's gun. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Police initially said ballistics tests concluded bullet fragments recovered from four of the shooting were fired from Merritt's gun. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Leslie Merritt Jr. was arrested and charged in connection with the freeway shootings, but those charges were later dropped. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Leslie Merritt Jr. was arrested and charged in connection with the freeway shootings, but those charges were later dropped. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Judge Warren Granville scheduled a new hearing for Jan. 13. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Judge Warren Granville scheduled a new hearing for Jan. 13. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Lawyers for the man who was suspected in the freeway shootings that terrorized the Phoenix metro area in summer 2015 were in court Wednesday, trying to get their client's gun back.

Leslie Merritt Jr., who was not in court himself, was arrested in connection with the Phoenix freeway shootings in September 2015 after ballistics tests tied him to four of the 11 incidents.

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

SPECIAL SECTION: Phoenix freeway shootings

Although he vehemently denied any involvement in the shooting from the moment he was arrested, Merritt was charged with 15 counts, including endangerment, drive-by shooting, unlawful discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, and disorderly conduct.

Merritt was released from jail in April. The charges were later dismissed although Judge Warren Granville left room for prosecutors to refile if new evidence warrants it.

RAW VIDEO: Watch the hearing

When Merritt was first taken into custody, police said ballistics tests matched bullet fragments from four the shootings to a 9mm handgun he owned.

Merritt, however, said the gun was in a pawn shop at the time. Records from the shop corroborated that.

In addition, a report by an independent firearms expert concluded that there was nothing suggesting that Merritt's gun fired the bullets recovered by investigators. While that report did not conclusively tie the gun to the fragments, it did not expressly exclude it either.

It’s this gun that Merritt, who has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit state and the county, is trying to get back. By Granville’s order, that was supposed to happen on June 30. It did not.

READ: Judge orders release of gun, vehicle in I-10 shooter’s case

The Department of Public Safety wanted to keep the gun as evidence in its ongoing investigation. Granville granted that request in August.

READ: Judge: Once-accused freeway shooter Leslie Merritt, Jr. will not get his gun back

During Wednesday’s proceeding, Granville scheduled a new hearing for Jan. 13. The state has until then to explain why investigators need to keep the gun and how long they need it.

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


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