PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Jurors are off for the weekend, after listening to testimony for three days surrounding a string of shootings along and near Interstate 10 in Phoenix. But one question these jurors will not be answering is: who actually fired the shots?

The shootings took place in August and September of 2015. The only man ever charged in the case was Leslie Merritt, Jr. But the charges against him were dropped in April of 2016.

Merritt, Jr. is suing the state of Arizona this week for false arrest and false imprisonment. His attorneys argue that Department of Public Safety investigators knew Merritt, Jr. could not have been the shooter at the time he was arrested, but disregarded the exculpatory evidence.

"Honestly, I would have thought my family would have went down in history as being absolutely unknown," said Leslie Merritt, Sr, who is Merritt, Jr.'s father.

Merritt, Sr. spoke to CBS 5 Investigates before the current trial began, although he said he could not discuss the case.

"I'm not allowed to speak about the case, but I'd never for a second that my son would do anything wrong," said Merritt, Sr.

Merritt, Jr.'s attorneys are tasked with convincing jurors that investigators knew they had the wrong gun, that they knew the ballistics from that gun did not match the ones found at the crime scenes, and that they had evidence Merritt, Jr. was in Glendale, more than a dozen miles away at the time of two of the shootings.

But the judge in the case ruled that Merritt, Jr's attorneys could not introduce evidence or accusations that point to a different suspect.

Court filings that were not introduced into evidence show that on the morning of August 29, 2015, a man named Aaron Saucedo bought 50 rounds of ammunition at a pawn shop at Indian School Road and 10th Street in Phoenix. That was 10:47 a.m.

Between 10 and 11:30 a.m., license plate readers spotted a vehicle with 6 of 7 of Saucedo's license plate numbers traveling westbound on I-10 near downtown Phoenix.

At 11:03 am, a Cadillac Escalade was shot on I-10 at 19th Avenue. And at 11:05 a.m., a bus was shot on I-10 at 43rd Avenue.

Meantime, cell phone tracking records show Merritt, Jr. was on the phone in Glendale at 11:04 a.m. But Merritt, Jr. was arrested and Saucedo was never charged in these shootings.

Phoenix police later arrested Saucedo in a string of shootings during a similar time frame. 

Attorneys representing the state of Arizona say senior DPS officials reviewed the evidence prior to ordering Merritt, Jr's arrest. DPS officials have since stated they do not believe Saucedo is connected to these shootings.

Merritt Sr., says he does not hold any ill will toward the media or Governor Doug Ducey, who famously Tweeted, "We got him!" when Merritt, Jr. was arrested.

Governor Doug Ducey Tweet

Governor Doug Ducey, Tweeted, "We got him!" when Merritt, Jr. was arrested.

Merritt, Sr. says he hopes this trial brings a sense of closure to his family.

"I want to feel in two weeks, like I want to feel for the last five years, that my son's name has been cleared, that the public accepts that a thorough investigation was done, which unfortunately, I don't think they can feel that way given where we're at in this situation. But I would honestly hope that my son finds a way to move forward and eventually feels comfortable enough and safe enough to be able to return back home," said Merritt, Sr.

Morgan Loew's hard-hitting investigations can be seen weekdays on CBS 5 News at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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