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Phoenix freeway shooting charges against Leslie Merritt Jr. to be dropped

LISTEN: Monica Lindstrom

PHOENIX — The state of Arizona has moved to drop all of the charges against a man who was accused of heading four shootings on Interstate 10 in Phoenix during the summer of 2015.

Leslie Merritt Jr., the once-alleged Phoenix freeway shooter, will now be a free man once again after his attorney, Jason Lamm, announced in a tweet that the state dismissed all charges without prejudice.

Jerry Cobb, spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, said that the office filed a motion to dismiss all charges without prejudice against Leslie Merritt Jr.

“In conjunction with (the Department of Public Safety), we have identified additional forensic investigation that needs to be completed in order for the case to proceed,” Cobb said.

This action will allow them “the necessary time” to file charges again, Cobb added. He declined to comment further.

The “without prejudice” clause means prosecutors could refile charges in the future if more evidence is found, according to KTAR News’ legal analyst Monica Lindstrom.

In a statement, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s spokeman Daniel Scarpinato said, “We expect the case to be treated fairly.”

Despite the announcement of dropped charges, Lamm tweeted that Merritt’s gag order remains until the charges are formally dismissed.

Merritt was released on Tuesday to await trail after a judge reduced his bail from $1 million to zero. He was required to wear electronic monitoring device before a May 18 status conference.

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.

Ducey came under fire for tweeting “We got him!” shortly after Merritt’s arrest.

In court the next day after his arrest, Merritt adamantly denied shooting any cars, telling the judge, “I’m the wrong guy.”

He pleaded not guilty to drive-by shooting, aggravated assault and other charges.

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.

Defense attorneys have said ballistic tests cast doubt on authorities’ claims that he was behind four of the freeway shootings. The investigation into the other shootings remains open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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