ARIZONA NEWS

Man suspected of opening fire on I-10 released to await trial

Apr 19, 2016, 10:20 AM | Updated: 6:12 pm

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PHOENIX — A man suspected of four shootings on Interstate 10 in the Phoenix metro area was released from jail Tuesday to await trial after a judge reduced his bail to zero.

Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr. was released around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Merritt will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device before a May 18 status conference.

Merritt’s attorney, Jason Lamm, tweeted that a change in evidence convinced the judge to reduce Merritt’s bond to nothing.

Lamm said an Arizona Department of Public Safety expert failed to link Merritt’s weapon with the shootings using ballistics evidence.

“He’s no more the I-10 shooter than, respectfully, you are, your honor,” Lamm said in court Tuesday.

Merritt was arrested in September after multiple vehicles were hit with random gunfire along I-10. He was charged with opening fire on vehicles along I-10 on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31.

DPS said the weapon used in these shootings was “forensically linked” to Merritt, but he claimed he was “the wrong guy” and hadn’t had access to his guns for two months.

He was initially placed on a $1 million bond, but that was later reduced by a judge.

Merritt’s attorneys argued that phone records showed he was not in the area at the time of the shootings. They also said he has an alibi.

Last month, Merritt filed a $10 million civil claim against Arizona and Gov. Doug Ducey, claiming he was wrongfully accused.

Court documents showed 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.

Claims are required precursors to possible lawsuits. If the claim moves to a lawsuit, KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom said it will be handled separately from Merritt’s criminal trial.

“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.”

Merritt’s attorneys also requested to depose both Ducey and Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead as part of the case. A judge rejected the request.

Several other shootings in the spree remain under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Man suspected of opening fire on I-10 released to await trial