PHOENIX — The head of Arizona’s Department of Public Safety said he does not regret the way he handled the case against former Phoenix freeway shooting suspect Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., despite the state dismissing it in April 2016 for a lack of evidence.
Milstead, who said in April 2016 he still believes Merritt Jr. is the “correct suspect,” said he believes the public will support his handling of the investigation once he is able to speak about it.
“There is no one, on the planet, that wants to tell this story more than I do,” he said. “I think, once we are able to speak openly about it, I think everyone will go, ‘You know, if I was Frank Milstead, I’d have done the same things.'”
Merritt Jr. filed a lawsuit against the state and Maricopa County officials in September 2016 for malicious prosecution, among other charges. He is asking for $10 million in damages.
Milstead, who has headed the department for more than two years, pointed to the agency’s rebranding and advertising as his most successful accomplishments.
“We are the state troopers, state laboratory service, state education and training for law enforcement,” Milstead said. “We are the Border Strike Force [too].”
Milstead said, for the meantime, he is focused on modernizing the agency with improvements that include moving toward online payment processing and applications.