No fear from freeway shooting victims regarding release of gunPosted: Updated:
The former suspect in the freeway shooting spree chalked up two wins on Monday.
According to his attorney, Jason Lamm, the domestic violence charges against Leslie Merritt, Jr. have been dropped, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety has released Merritt's gun.
The alleged domestic violence violation took place at a residence near 67th and Maryland avenues.
Merritt Jr. was arrested by Glendale police in October 2016 for allegedly violating a domestic violence order of protection.
In January of this year, a judge ordered the Arizona Department of Public Safety to return the gun that was seized from Merritt in 2015 as evidence in the freeway shootings investigation.
Merritt was the primary suspect in that case.
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 during the previous summer. The string of shootings rattled the Phoenix area.
In April 2016, prosecutors moved to drop all charges against Merritt, and after serving seven months in jail he was released.
On Monday, Lamm reinforced the position he and his client have held all along.
“We've stood by Les Merritt, Jr. from day one. He has maintained his innocence. We have shown his innocence. There's never been a scrap of evidence to suggest that he was the freeway shooter,” said Lamm outside a downtown Phoenix courthouse.
Lamm also said that last week, DPS released Merritt’s gun to Lamm’s custody with Merritt’s permission.
With no felony conviction and the domestic violence charges he faced dropped, Merritt is well within the law to possess a weapon.
That is perfectly fine with Robert McDonald, who was one of the victim’s of the freeway shooting incidents.
“From day one I never thought that Merritt was actually the individual who committed these crimes. Just none of the evidence that was processed from my vehicle, my discussions on the day of the shooting with DPS, it just didn't add up at all,” said McDonald.
The former commercial bus driver was driving a bus to Las Vegas when in the area of 43rd Avenue and I-10 a bullet pierced the side of the bus and lodged in the seat behind him.
“When I pulled over at the Circle K, I saw this big 'ol hole and I got freaked out. I was scared for a while of course and I've had to go through counseling,” said McDonald.
But the fear he felt and his symptoms of what he claims is PTSD are not enough for McDonald to be concerned now that Merritt’s gun has been released.
“The guy is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The charges were dropped, obviously, the evidence didn't point to him. I don't have a problem with him having his gun back, honestly, because in our system here in the United States unless he's convicted of a felony why shouldn't he have his gun back,” said McDonald.
Another victim of the freeway shootings who asked not to be identified said her concern is that the suspect who committed the crimes is still out there and that she has no concerns that Merritt has his gun back.
And yet a third victim, who also spoke without wanting to be identified, said his life does not change one bit because of the gun being released.
“I hate to see a law abiding citizen lose their right to carry a gun. If he is the shooter, I don’t think he’s dumb enough to do it again. If he is innocent, his life is ruined,” said the unidentified victim.
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.
Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.