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Milstead: Weapon used in I-10 shootings ‘forensically linked’ to suspect in custody

Suspected I-10 shooter, Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. being taken into custody. (Twitter photo/@12News)

First reported via tweet from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona Department of Public Safety officials announced Friday night that they have apprehended an individual suspected in the Interstate 10 shootings.  Daniel Scarpinato, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Governor Ducey, confirmed the suspect in custody is Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr.

A press conference lasting no more than five minutes at DPS headquarters was held at 9:00 Friday evening to announce Merritt’s arrest.

“Tonight we have made an arrest in the I-10 shootings that occurred on August 29, that day, and on the morning of August 31, 2015,” DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead said.  “The subject is in custody because the weapon that he owned is forensically linked to these crimes.

“Right now we know that he is related to the first four shootings due to the weapon that he owned being involved in those shootings.”

According to Milstead, it is possible that other copycats remain at large, but he declined to offer further details on the investigation, which continues to be ongoing despite the arrest of their suspect.

Milstead also made a point to commend law enforcement officials, as well the people of Arizona, for their help in ultimately apprehending Merritt.

“Tonight does not happen without a lot of effort from a lot of very hard-working men and women,” Milstead said.  “The collaborative efforts of Arizona law enforcement could not be any more clearly defined than by this case tonight.

“Arizonans have been incredible in their efforts to provide us leads and tips.  I cannot tell you how much it inspires me to lead a police organization in a state where the community has such trust for their law enforcement as they do in Arizona.”

Ducey echoed Milstead’s words in a statement release shortly following the conclusion of the DPS press conference.

“I applaud the excellent work done by our state troopers, SWAT team, investigators, Col. Milstead and all the law enforcement agencies who partnered to identify this suspect and apprehend him. This was no easy case, but our law enforcement officials worked night and day from the moment these shootings began to get to the bottom of it and protect Arizona citizens. Let it be clear — those who endanger the lives of Arizona residents will pay the consequences and be prosecuted with the full force of the law.”

On Friday, unrelated charges were dropped against 19-year-old Oscar De La Torre Munoz, a person of interest in the Phoenix I-10 shootings.

 

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