The Latest: Witness describes arrest of suspect at store

AP News
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Posted: Sep 19, 2015 2:30 AM
The Latest: Witness describes arrest of suspect at store

PHOENIX (AP) — The latest on the investigation of a series of freeway shootings in the Phoenix area (all times local):

11:30 p.m. Brandon Copeland said he witnessed the arrest of the suspect as he did some Friday night shopping at the Wal-Mart. He was struck at the military-style response as officers stormed the crowded store with semiautomatic weapons and came out with the man in handcuffs.

"My girl goes maybe we should leave, and I'm thinking we should leave. And as soon as she says that, like five, six unmarked units just rolled up with blue and reds flashing everywhere," he said.

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11:20 p.m.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the father of suspect Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was adamant 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 of his son.

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10:15 p.m.

Authorities say the investigation of a string of shootings along Phoenix-area freeways will continue after the arrest of a suspect in connection with four of them.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said that motorists should remain vigilant. The signs on the freeways urging caution will remain up, Graves said,

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9:30 p.m.

Officials say a 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection with four shootings along Phoenix-area freeways that have kept drivers on edge for weeks.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was arrested Friday in connection to the shootings on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

At a news conference, Arizona Department of Public Safety director Col. Frank Milstead said: "Over the last two weeks Arizonans have been terrified by shootings on Interstate 10 along with copycats. The weapon and the man we believe is responsible for these shootings in Arizona is in custody."

"He is in custody because the weapon that he owned is forensically linked to these crimes," Milstead said.

When asked if there could be other suspects, Milstead said: "Are there others out there Are there copycat? That is possible."

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7:25 p.m.

Officials say a suspect has been arrested in connection with a string of shootings along Phoenix-area freeways that have kept drivers on edge for weeks.

A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey says a man was taken into custody around 7 p.m. Friday at a Wal-Mart in Glendale, a suburb west of Phoenix.

No other details were immediately released.

Since Aug. 29, there have been 11 confirmed shootings of vehicles in the Phoenix area involving bullets or other projectiles.

Most occurred along Interstate 10, a major route through the city.

There have been no serious injuries, though a 13-year-old girl's ear was cut by glass after a bullet shattered a window of a vehicle she was riding in.

The shootings have prompted several school districts to keep their buses off freeways, and some motorists have altered their commutes to avoid driving I-10.