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Suspect in Phoenix freeway shootings enters not guilty plea

PHOENIX — A man suspected in four of the freeway shootings in the Phoenix area starting in late August pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.  faces 15 felony charges, including aggravated assault and carrying out a drive-by shooting.

“Our preliminary investigation indicates that this is a rush to judgment and we don’t believe he’s the I-10 shooter,” Ulises Ferragut, co-counsel for Merritt, said before the please was entered.

Merritt’s other attorney, Jason Lamm, said they have yet to receive police documents but have a lead that another person may have been involved.

“We have information that we’re exploring that someone else has made an acknowledgement that they could be responsible and that’s a lead that we’re tracking down,” Lamm said. “But it’s very, very early in the game to get hard confirmation on that.”

Merritt’s next court hearing is Nov. 18.

The 21-year-old Glendale man was arrested Sept. 18 at a Wal-Mart.

Investigators say ballistics tests link him to four of 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10.

“Forensic evidence is susceptible to interpretation,” Lamm said. “It’s such a vague term. I think everyone’s been watching a little too much ‘CSI’ here.”

Authorities say eight cars were struck with bullets and three with projectiles such as BBs or pellets while driving on Interstate 10.

The investigation into the other incidents remains open.

State police say copycats may be shooting guns or other weapons on freeways.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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