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Chronology and Update: Freeway shootings

Anyone with information about these shootings should call 602-644-5805

Saturday, September 19, 2015 -

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Detectives with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) are investigating a number of incidents occurring on the freeways in the Phoenix metropolitan area that date back to August 29, 2015. The investigation is continuing. The public should still report all emergencies related to shootings via 911. Tips regarding this investigation should be directed to the DPS Tip Line at 602-644-5805.

Silent Witness is offering $50,000 for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for these shooting incidents. The number for Silent Witness is (480) WITNESS - 480-948-6377.

The following will continue to be updated as information is available.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The chronology leading up to the arrest last night includes the work of our detectives reviewing at list of pawn shops that purchased or loaned money for any firearms matching the make and caliber that were identified by the DPS Crime lab. DPS detectives collected firearms that matched the search. Investigative research was then conducted on the suspect Leslie Merrit Junior who pawned one of the firearms collected. The crime lab test fired the firearm pawned by Merrit. The test fired bullets were matched to bullet fragments from four cases over the last weekend in August.

We have evidence that justifies that Leslie Allen Merrit Junior is the prime suspect in at least four of the incidents. There was no independent tip that substantiated information leading to this arrest. This was a result of exhaustive police work. However, the 50 thousand dollar reward is still available as we investigate and try to close out all related incidents that have occurred these past weeks. That is why the overhead signs will continue to advertise the tip line 602-644-5805. We are still interested in any additional information leading to the arrest of any suspect in those two other scenarios we have mentioned, the road range incident over Labor Day weekend and the projectiles that were fired.

Throughout this very long investigation, the combined efforts of our federal and local law enforcement partners made the difference. Today we are seeing the end results of some incredible police work as detectives from not just our agency but Phoenix Police, Tempe Police, ATF and the FBI worked tirelessly 24/7 to bring this case to a close. It’s important to note the incredible assistance given us by the State Crime Lab. Their help was essential in the hours leading up to the arrest.

Arizonans benefit from the excellent professional working relationship between federal and local law enforcement.

The case is now in the justice system. We will be working with the county attorney’s office and will assist as the case runs it’s course.

Press briefing by Media Relations Manager, Bart graves:

Friday, September 18, 2015
At 6:47pm, State detectives and members of our SWAT team arrested a 21-year-old Glendale man. We have evidence that leads us to believe this suspect can be associated with the I-10 shootings from August 29th and August 30th. He faces a range of criminal charges which include unlawful discharge of a firearm, endangerment, criminal damage and aggravated assault. He will be booked into the Maricopa County Jail. Ballistic evidence pointed us toward this suspect. Our investigation is ongoing. It’s important to note we have a forensic link to one weapon in this shooting. We are trying to establish a possible link to the other scenarios over the past couple of weeks.

ADPS is currently investigating an incident that occurred Thursday afternoon, Sept.17th, southbound I-17 near Thomas Road, in which a motorist brandished a weapon at the motorcyclist. There have been two calls within the last 24 hours of broken windshields or side windows on vehicles. Both were investigated and both were ruled out as being part of the 11 cases under review as part of the I-10 shooting investigation.

Thursday, September 17, 2015
There were no incidents related to the ongoing I-10 shooting investigations in the last 24 hours. At this point the number of incidents related to our case stands at 11. The last incident occurred September 10, 2015. There will be no status briefing today. We would like to remind the public there is a $50,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person involved in these shootings. Please call 602-644-5805 or Silent Witness. The overhead freeway digital signs will continue to be active regarding the case along with the roadside billboards advertising the reward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Today 16 digital billboards advertising the $50,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person, or persons, responsible for the I-10 shootings went active along Interstate’s 10 and 17 in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

We would like to thank Phoenix Police for going door-to-door and personally handling out tens of thousands of flyers with contact information regarding the I-10 shooting investigation and a reminder of the $50,000 reward. Phoenix Police Officers handed out about seven thousand flyers in Maryvale this morning. We greatly appreciate their efforts.

An incident involving a report of a possible projectile that struck a vehicle eastbound on I-10 overnight near 43rd avenue turned out to be road debris.

There have been no new cases regarding this investigation since last Thursday and the investigation continues.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
This press release titled, "Chronology and Update: Freeway shootings," was published as well as this news briefing:

ADPS is triaging the tips received to get the most up to date information to our investigators. All information is prioritized and our investigators are working diligently to follow up as expeditiously as possible. We encourage anyone to call the tip line when an incident occurs unless it is an emergency or there is a vehicle description that highway patrol officers can respond to. There are seven people devoted to taking calls to the tip line.

Between late yesterday and today, ADPS received three reports of broken windows or windshield on vehicle in the Tucson area. All were investigated and we have determined that all were struck by road debris.

Finally, ADPS is working with the Phoenix Police Department to distribute flyers (English | Spanish) throughout the community both in English and Spanish. Our goal is to get information on the $50,000 reward out to those not receiving the information through the media, social media and the overhead message boards.

Monday, September 14, 2015
ADPS Director Colonel Milstead held a press briefing at ADPS headquarters. Colonel Milstead stated that state troopers are investigating three scenarios: bullet strikes, projectile strikes and road rage.

Colonel Milstead also said, “As we move on with this investigation we will separate the information we know is related to this investigation and eliminate information that is not involved. We know the media is frustrated because we are not releasing details of the investigation but that is why.” “We have not solved this case but somebody knows something. That is why we have increased the reward to $50,000. We still need that one tip that will help us solve this case.”

Oscar De La Torre Munoz is still considered a person of interest and our investigation concerning him continues.

Sunday, September 13, 2015
On Saturday evening, September 12, 2015, ADPS State Troopers, MCSO Deputies and Mesa PD officers, arrested three 18 year old men in relation to two events where windows of vehicles were shot in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. ADPS does not believe these incidents are related to its investigation of the freeway shootings but encourages citizens to remain vigilant and continue to report suspicious activity to the DPS Tip Line at 602-644-5805.

Saturday, September 12, 2015
ADPS Director Colonel Milstead issued the following statement: “This investigation continues as we work to identify and assist in the prosecution of anyone involved in these series of shootings. We need the ongoing support, vigilance and patience of our community and the media as this is a very complex and ongoing investigation.”

Freeway shooting announcement by Arizona DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead

Friday, September 11, 2015
State detectives questioned one person of interest in relation to the shooting incidents. The person of interest was taken into custody near 107th Avenue and Indian School. The person of interest has been identified as Oscar De La Torre Munoz age 19, of Avondale and was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail for possession of marijuana. Although Munoz is a person of interest, the investigation continues.

Thursday, September 10, 2015
ADPS detectives investigated shooting incident on September 10, 2015, at 9:40 a.m. Detectives were called to the area of 83rd Avenue and Latham to investigate a hole found in the side of a commercial truck-tractor pulling a semi-trailer. It was determined the hole was caused by a bullet strike. It has not been determined when or at what location the semi-trailer was struck. This is the 11th confirmed shooting incident.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
On September 9, 2015, at 10:45 a.m., a pickup was traveling east on Interstate 10 near 39th Avenue and was struck by a projectile. This is the 10th confirmed incident related to the ADPS investigation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Between approximately 5:35 a.m. and 5:37 a.m., a pickup truck was traveling east on Interstate 10 between 43rd Avenue and 35th Avenue and was struck by a projectile. This is the 9th confirmed shooting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
At 5:21 a.m., a box truck was traveling west on Interstate 10 at 27th Avenue and was struck by a projectile. This is the 8th confirmed incident related to the DPS investigation.

Monday, September 7, 2015
ADPS published a press release regarding the investigation.

Shooting takes place along the Loop 202 freeway Sunday night

Sunday, September 6, 2015
At approximately, 8:30 p.m., a passenger car was traveling west on SR 202 between 32nd Street and 24th Street and was struck by a bullet. This vehicle was involved in an earlier “road rage” incident with another passenger car and is the 7th confirmed shooting.

Sunday, September 6, 2015
At approximately 5:50 p.m., a box truck was traveling south on Interstate 17 near Dunlap Road and a ladder attached to it was struck by a bullet. This is the 6th confirmed incident related to the DPS investigation.

Monday, August 31, 2015
At approximately 4:30 a.m. on this date at report was received that a pickup truck was traveling east on Interstate 10 between 24th Street and 40th Street and was struck by a bullet. This was the 5th confirmed incident.

Sunday, August 30, 2015
Around 9:45 p.m., a passenger car was traveling west on Interstate 10 between Sky Harbor Boulevard and SR 51 and was stuck by a bullet. This is the 4th confirmed shooting.

Saturday, August 29, 2015
At or around 10:15 p.m., a passenger car was traveling east on Interstate 10 at the mini-stack (east of 16th Street) and was struck by a bullet. This is the 3rd confirmed incident related to the investigation.

Saturday, August 29, 2015
The 2nd confirmed incident occurred on this date between 11:10 a.m. and 11:25 a.m., when a commercial tour bus with only the driver as an occupant was traveling west on Interstate 10 between 35th Avenue and 67th Avenue and was struck by a bullet.

Saturday, August 29, 2015
The first confirmed incident relating to the freeway shooting investigation occurred at approximately 11:10 a.m. on this date when a SUV was traveling east on Interstate 10 at 19th Avenue and was struck by a bullet.


Click here for photos relating to this news release.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a state-level law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect human life and property by enforcing state laws, deterring criminal activity and providing vital support to the State of Arizona and its citizens.