Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted “We got him!” and Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves confirmed that a suspect was taken into custody Thursday in connection with a series of Arizona highway shootings.
Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr., 21 was arrested at a Wal-Mart outside of Phoenix about 7 p.m. Thursday. Authorities confirm that Merritt is linked to at least four of the shootings — others may have been committed by copycats. The suspect has not been formally charged yet.
Since August 29, 11 vehicles were hit with gunfire in the Phoenix area, most occurring along Interstate 10. The attacks caused several local school districts to keep their buses off freeways.
The Arizona Republic reports that Merritt’s father, Leslie Merritt Sr., became physically ill after learning of his son’s arrest.
“Whoever said my son is the freeway shooter is a moron,” he said from his home in Mesa. “It’s got to be some sort of mistake or someone wanted the reward. This is just preposterous.”
Merritt Sr. said his son works as a landscaper, just as he does, and works 12 to 15 hours a day to support his family.
“He has been raised with too much respect for life and too much for firearms” to have done this, he said.
A $50,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrest.
On Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that the shootings qualified as domestic terrorism because they caused fear in motorists and made them change their routines.