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Arizona police arrest man "forensically linked" to highway shootings

By
Amy R. Connolly
Interstate 10 looking east at the deck park tunnel in Phoenix, Ariz. Late Friday, police arrested Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, who they say is forensically linked to four of the 11 highway shootings. Photo by Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock
Interstate 10 looking east at the deck park tunnel in Phoenix, Ariz. Late Friday, police arrested Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, who they say is "forensically linked" to four of the 11 highway shootings. Photo by Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock

PHOENIX, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A 21-year-old man was arrested Friday after police determined he is allegedly "forensically linked" to a spate of shootings along a busy highway over the past several weeks.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was taken into custody Friday as a suspect in four of the 11 highway shootings along busy Interstate 10 that left at least one person injured and terrorized the community.

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Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said Merritt's weapon has been connected to shootings that occurred on August 29 and August 31, but acknowledged the arrest may bring little relief to the local residents.

"The weapon and man we believe was responsible for starting this spree is in custody," Milstead said. "Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible."

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Milstead declined to divulge any details about the arrest or Merritt's possible connection to the shootings that started Aug. 29.

Gov. Doug Ducey first broke the news about the arrest late Friday after SWAT team members closed in on a Walmart to arrest Merritt.

Merritt's father said his son works as a landscaper to support his family and has "too much respect for life and too much for firearms" to commit the crimes.

"Whoever said my son is the freeway shooter is a moron," he said. "It's got to be some sort of mistake or someone wanted the reward. This is just preposterous."

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Police have already arrested three other suspects in what they call copy-cat shootings.

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