PHOENIX — The man suspected of opening fire at several cars on Interstate 10 has filed a $10 million civil claim alleging he was wrongfully accused.
Court documents show lawyers for Leslie Merritt Jr. allege authorities rushed to judgment and failed to provide any evidence that Merritt was present at any of the shootings.
“He claims that this wrongful arrest and prosecution has caused him to be separated from his family and has caused him to lose money because he hasn’t been able to work,” KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom said.
Such claims are required precursors to possible lawsuits. If the claim moves to a lawsuit, Lindstrom said it will be handled separately from Merritt’s criminal trial.
Merritt’s claim was filed against the state, Gov. Doug Ducey, the county and County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
“A lot of the civil lawsuit has to do with the tweet that Gov. Ducey sent out saying ‘We got him,'” Lindstrom said. “The defense believes that tweet was not necessary, it was irresponsible and has caused a lot of prejudice for the defendant.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety investigated the shootings and Montgomery’s office is prosecuting the criminal case against Merritt, who has pleaded not guilty.
Merritt’s attorneys previously said he has an alibi.
Maricopa Couny Attorney’s Office spokesman Jerry Cobb declined comment. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the claim is a routine matter that will be handled in due course.
KTAR’s Cooper Rummell and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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