Late Saturday night, Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials and others involved in the Phoenix freeway shootings investigation revealed that suspect Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was discovered and apprehended by using bullet fragments from the first four freeway shootings.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) special agent Tom Mangan said there is “no doubt” that the gun used in the shootings “was the one owned and pawned by Merritt.” According to Fox News, Mangan explained that “the bullet recovered contains certain hand and groove impressions after it’s been fired that are unique to a particular firearm.”
AZ Central reports that investigators were able to identify the type of gun used in the shootings via the bullet fragments. From there, law enforcement “scoured Valley pawnshops for [the weapon].” On September 16, they found a match at “Mo Money Pawn in central Phoenix.” Mo Money turned over a 9mm handgun which testing confirmed as the gun allegedly used in the first four freeway shootings.
Merritt was arrested on Friday, and at his first hearing Saturday morning, he told Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Lisa Roberts that law enforcement had made a mistake—that he could not be the shooter because his gun was in the pawn shop when the shootings occurred. But investigators countered attempts to claim the gun was pawned when the shootings occurred.
Merritt is facing 28 felony counts—four of which are “intentional terrorism”—and he’s being held on a $1 million bond.
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