PHOENIX — A person has been arrested in a string of shootings dubbed the Serial Street Shooter case, Phoenix police announced Monday.
The suspect is Aaron Juan Saucedo, who was charged last month with a first-degree murder in a killing not originally linked to the serial shootings.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said it took “tens of thousands of hours to get this right” at a press conference announcing Saucedo’s arrest.
Saucedo is the suspect in at least 12 shootings across the Valley that left nine people dead and wounded two others.
He faces 27 felony charges — eight counts of first-degree murder, discharging a firearm at a residence, drive-by shooting, first-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, discharging a firearm at a nonresidence, endangerment and criminal damage.
“I’m innocent,” Sauceo said during his initial court appearance Monday night.
Saucedo was denied bond.
Saucedo is the same person who was declared a person of interest in the case last month.
A reward as high as $75,000 was offered for information in the case. Law enforcement received more than 3,300 tips.
According to court documents, Saucedo was arrested last month in connection with an Aug. 16, 2015 fatal shooting near Bethany Home Road and Seventh Street in Phoenix.
The first shooting linked to Saucedo happened near Seventh Street and Camelback Road on Aug. 12, 2015. No one was injured.
The third was Jan. 1, 2016. A man was killed near 59th Avenue and Encanto Boulevard in Phoenix at 12:45 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
On March 17, 2016, a Nissan drove past two teenagers, pulled a U-turn and Saucedo allegedly opened fire, hitting a 16-year-old boy in the arm, abdomen and hip. The teen survived the attack.
In another attack, on July 11, 2016, a 21-year-old man and his 4-year-old nephew escaped injury after the gunman shot at a vehicle they were sitting in.
Police have said the victims were attacked as they stood outside their homes or sat in vehicles after dark. They were fired upon by someone who was sitting in a car or had just stepped out of a vehicle. Most of the killings took place in the city’s Maryvale section, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on Phoenix’s west side.
Investigators don’t believe the attacks are racially motivated, though no motive has been established.
The victims include a 21-year-old man whose girlfriend was pregnant with their son and a 12-year-girl who was shot to death along with her mother and a friend of the woman.
Phoenix police had not connected a shooting to Saucedo in months. It’s not unusual for investigations into serial killers to stall, experts said.
“Sometimes these dry spells go on for years, but people shouldn’t mistake that for cases being dormant,” said Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler who directs George Mason University’s forensic science program.
It’s also not unusual for serial killers to disappear for a period after they take a life or lives, said Mike Rustigan, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at San Jose State University who has studied serial killers.
The killer may have gone “into a cooling-off period to lay low because he doesn’t want to get caught,” Rustigan said.
Shortly after Saucedo was detained, both the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Phoenix Police Department confirmed that the former turned over all of its evidence from the Interstate 10 shooter case — including DPS’ case against one-time suspect Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. — to the latter.
The materials turned over to police included ballistics evidence.
However, Police Chief Jeri Williams said Monday that the I-10 and Serial Street Shooter cases are not linked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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