A suspect who was “forensically linked” to a string of highway shootings in Arizona has been arrested. Leslie Allen Merritt was arrested but the police believe there my be copycats still out there.
A police SWAT team on Friday arrested a suspect in a string of shootings along an Arizona freeway that have put drivers on edge over recent weeks, the governor said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the arrest on Twitter with a post that began: “We got him!”
The man in custody owned a weapon that was “forensically linked” to the first four shootings, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said at a news conference on Friday night:
The first three shootings occurred on Aug. 29 and the fourth the following night, hitting a tour bus, SUV and two cars, all of them on Interstate 10. No one was injured.
Milstead noted that others may have also been involved in the remaining shootings. “I believe we have some copycats that decided to participate,” he said.
A spokesperson for the governor told NBC affiliate KPNX that the suspected shooter was 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt, who was arrested at a Walmart in Glendale, Arizona. Officials have not confirmed the suspect’s name.
His father told the Associated Press that his son had nothing to do with the shootings and that anyone who says he was involved is a “moron.” Leslie Merritt Sr. said he believes his son is being made a scapegoat by police who were desperate to make an arrest under immense public pressure. “He has way too much value for human life to even take the slightest or remotest risk of actually injuring someone,” he said.
The suspect faces a range of charges that include criminal endangerment, assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm.
Eleven vehicles were shot at on or near the I-10 freeway running through Phoenix since Aug. 29, authorities have said, although some of those incidents involved bullets and others were what has been only described as projectiles.
Ducey praised the work of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and said the investigation remains ongoing.
“Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible,” Milstead said.
Read more: NBC