Father of Phoenix Highway Shooting Suspect Defends His Son

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? Or did the cops get the wrong guy? “All I have to say is I’m the wrong guy,” Merritt, 21, told the judge at his arraignment. “I tried to tell the detectives that. My gun’s been in the pawn shop for the last two months. I haven’t even had access to a weapon.” Yes, well, cnn.com reports . . .

Authorities got a break in the case after a 9 mm handgun was pawned, City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said. The pawn shop’s owner alerted authorities after he suspected it was the same type used in the highway shootings.

Lab results showed it was the same gun used in four I-10 shootings on August 29 and 31, said Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Graves said Merritt pawned the handgun, which investigators collected from the shop. The gun was fired at the state crime lab and bullets from the tests matched bullet fragments from the four freeway shootings, Graves said.

We shall see.


  1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    ‘The pawn shop’s owner alerted authorities after he suspected it was the same type used in the highway shootings.’

    Are 9mm handguns particularly rare in AZ?

    1. avatar Idaho Bob says:

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      9mm shows up at a pawn shop and t owner’s first thought is “This could be the rive-by weapon!” As mentioned, Merrit should have a receipt from the shop OR an alibi for one (or) all of the shootings. If he was landscaping during any one of the shootings, he shouldbe free to go.

    2. avatar 277Volt says:

      As I understand it it’s possible narrow down the possible make/model of the gun by the rifling marks left on the bullet. For example if the rifling marks are from a polygonal barrel you just eliminated a whole lot of pistols and made Glock a front runner.

      How the pawn shop owner knew what they were looking for is an interesting question.

      1. avatar Ladd Boid says:

        It isn’t unusual for the police to notify pawns and gun shops to be on the lookout for certain types of weapons. Maybe they did so in this case. One thing for certain is that we lack details. If the dude has the correctly dated receipt, he’ll have a good lawsuit. I wouldn’t trust the pawn shop without proof either.

        1. avatar 277Volt says:

          That makes sense.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          At least a quick look at the pawn shop employees/owner would seem to be in order, after all, that is where the cops got the gun!

      2. avatar Amok! says:

        The pawn shop owner knew about the gun because he or a buddy took it out and sniped cars on I10 then pinned it on the pawner. Used a nitrile glove when shooting.

        And the ATF has a lead investigative role.

        That is all.

      3. avatar Mark N. says:

        High end Kahrs have polygonal rifling also. I think some Sigs may as well?

    3. avatar Roy says:

      My first thoughts too. How many other hundreds of 9mm handguns were pawned around Phoenix and how many did the police test? It would be disconcerting to me that a single pawn shop owner called in a single pawned gun and that was the only one tested. If that were the case. Not sure yet.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Well, if I were a pawn shop owner/secret sniper, I’d probably use a different gun each time, and have a fire sale on them immediately after. Cops would go nuts.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        ” and how many did the police test?”

        All or most of them, I bet, with a high-profile case like this…

        1. avatar gabba says:

          yeah but look at what they said: “bullets from the tests matched bullet fragments from the four freeway shootings”

          they didn’t say that it matched every bullet fragment nor did they say that other guns didn’t match. even if every 9mm glock matched and if only 2 out of 27 fragments were a match the quote would still be factual.

  2. avatar CJ Minnesota says:

    Did he pawn the 9mm, or did he sell it to the shop? Either way one should have a receipt of the transaction, even if as an earlier theory was suggested and the shop owner fiddled with dates of the transaction to cover up the tracks of someone inside the pawn shop who might be ultimately responsible the guy who sold or pawned the pistol should be able to clear himself and prove that the pistol wasn’t in his ownership during the time of the shootings.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  3. avatar nightstryke says:

    See this is why I don’t pawn things!

  4. avatar Bob Watson says:

    “The gun was fired at the state crime lab and bullets from the tests matched bullet fragments from the four freeway shootings,”

    Bullet fragments were matched to test bullets? Pieces of bullets recovered from crime scenes were matched to whole bullets fired in a lab? Let me guess, the bullet fragments consisted of lead and a zinc/copper alloy and the bullets fired in the lab were constructed of lead and a zinc/copper alloy! That is some serious CSI/TV fantasy.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      I read up on ballistic matching a while back, and apparently it’s a bunch of voodoo, especially with modern guns. Modern machining is so precise that two barrels off of the same assembly line will produce a ballistics match.

      It’s going to be expensive, but his defense can hire an expert witness who can destroy the prosecution’s case, if all they have is a ballistics match.

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        He’s a landscaper who had to pawn his pistol. I doubt he can afford the kind of defense you’re describing.

    2. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      Not necessarily. Fragments can carry tool marks that can be compared to whole bullets. That part is not fantasy at all.

      You can question the reliability of such tool mark comparison if you wish, but forensic labs have been doing this for decades before CSI was even a gleam in the producer’s eye.

      1. avatar GunGeek says:

        Will appreciate source(s) for your assertion.

        Matching bullet fragments seems much more difficult that matching bullets.

        Wikipedia says https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistic_fingerprinting
        “The Maryland State Police wrote a report critical of the program and asking the Maryland General Assembly to disband it, since it was expensive and had not contributed to solving a single crime.[3] Subsequently however, the database did provide evidence used to obtain one murder conviction at an estimated cost of 2.6 million dollars per conviction.[4]

        A California Department of Justice survey, using 742 guns used by the California Highway Patrol as a test bed, showed very poor results; even with such a limited database, less than 70% of cases of the same make as the “fingerprint” case yielded the correct gun in the top 15 matches; when a different make of ammunition was used, the success rate dropped to less than 40%.”

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      And an even more important question: why would 9mm bullets fragment at all upon striking a motor vehicle? A rifle bullet may fragment when it strikes mammalian tissue because of the extreme velocities involved. A 9mm bullet hitting a car door at 1000 fps? I don’t think so.

      1. avatar gary says:

        Actually, 9mm bullets will fragment when hitting the glass of an automobile as evidenced recently in Allen, TX where a college student was shot in an automobile. The 9mm bullet entered through the back windshield and fragmented. One of the larger fragments went through the boy’s shoulder, causing a wound that required surgery. Several fragments embedded in the dash of the car. Most likely was a hollowpoint, but regardless, the bullet did fragment. The boy was the son of a friend of mine who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  5. avatar Rad Man says:

    “He’s a good boy, starting to turn his life around. In fact he was just about to release his first rap album.” – the unidentified neighbor after every felony suspect is arrested.

  6. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    I’m confused… I thought the highway shootings were done with a rifle. When did it become a handgun?

    And yes, if this young man had his pawn receipt (a real mystery if he didn’t), why would it take more than five minutes to clear him if the dates worked…?

    As with so many other things, this smells fishy. And the incompetent, incomplete “reporting” by the MSM doesn’t help in the least.

    1. avatar Jordan says:

      I thought that was weird also. Although, that might explain why no one has been killed yet. If the shooter was using a rifle, I would have expected at least one fatality but if the crimes were indeed carried out with a pistol, that would make sense (relatively). What does not make sense is why he used a pistol. That just seems silly but I don’t know the exact motivation for these attacks.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Nah, you’ve got this confused with Waco, where the cops used rifles to waste the bikers.

  7. avatar Matt in Maine says:

    The story has some serious holes.

    1. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

      So do a lot of cars down there.

  8. avatar TTACer says:

    “bullets from the tests matched bullet fragments”

    I wish we could do response gifs so I could use the Anchorman “I don’t believe you” here. Unless there has been some new breakthrough that I haven’t heard of, so called bullet matching is junk science.

    My guess is that they know this is the guy via “old fashioned police work” i.e. a tip, and they are just padding the forensics so that jurors whose minds have been poisoned by CSI believe them.

  9. avatar clickboom says:

    The cynic in me says the Pawn shop owner wants 20k reward and/or a patsy.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    But he’s a good boy who was turning his car around.

  11. avatar Kendahl says:

    Either there is solid evidence connecting the gun to the shootings or there isn’t. Let the expert witnesses argue that. Either the gun was in the pawn shop or it wasn’t. The shop owner’s records and a pawn ticket should show which is the case. Why is this so difficult? Does this guy have a criminal record that would suggest him as a suspect?

  12. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    Various news sources describe Leslie Merritt Jr as Pro-Gun, Anti-Cop, Pro-Pot, and a ‘Conspiracy Lover’. Sound familiar?

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Nope. Maybe if you give a little more detail.

      1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

        While Pro-Pot might be a subject rarely broached in this forum, Pro-Gun, Anti-Cop, but especially ‘Conspiracy Lover’ describes quite a few TTAG regulars to a tee and for a perfect example you needn’t look further than comments below Dustin shared with us.

    2. avatar Xpunge says:

      You saying he’s one of those “occupy” members?

      Yeah, I can see that.

  13. avatar gsnyder says:

    The major concern is the zeal of authorities to apprehend someone. A bullet match, if true, is hard to refute. At any rate, Merrick is in deep doo.

    1. avatar Dustin says:

      “A bullet match, if true, is hard to refute.”

      Maybe on TV… In reality, it’s never been upheld, and only used on ignorant people to coerce a confession.

      I could fire a bullet from the same make and model firearm right now and it would be a “match.” Ballistic fingerprinting is a hilarious lie. If the barrel came from the same source, and was a completely different make and model, it’d still match.

      A bullet that becomes fragments has so little left to match, pretty much everything matches…

      1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

        Dustin buddy, stop embarrassing yourself. I know it’s unlikely you’ll ever grasp the concept of “firearm and tool mark examination”, but just in case here’s a link that might help: http://nij.gov/journals/274/Pages/firearm-toolmark-examination.aspx

  14. avatar Dustin says:

    “Lab results showed it was the same gun used”

    Oh really? And what magical voodoo was this? “Ballistic fingerprinting” has been debunked time and time again… This would be the first time in the history of the USA that it was actually used as evidence in a prosecution.

    Up to now, the lie of ballistic fingerprinting has been used to coerce a confession because they know it’s junk science and doesn’t hold up in court. There are a few nations in the world that allow it, because their citizens are stripped of the right to bear arms, and thus the ability to prove that it’s bunk…

  15. avatar Dustin says:

    “The gun was fired at the state crime lab and bullets from the tests matched bullet fragments from the four freeway shootings, Graves said.”

    I’ve got a 9mm whose fired projectiles will match deformed fragments, too. In fact, several… I’ve got guns of completely different calibers that will also match…

    Ballistic fingerprinting is, and always has been, a lie.

  16. avatar Dustin says:

    Oh, yeah. Ever heard of a barrel swap? Could be done before or after… Could even be used to frame somebody by putting a different barrel in their gun… You know. If ballistic fingerprinting weren’t total bullsh!t to begin with…

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Ooh. This is juicy … and factually correct to boot. The pawnshop owner could be the one who actually shot at the cars. Then he/she waited until someone pawned the same make/model of handgun. Then the pawnshop owners swaps barrels and, voila, the gun that shot the cars!

      Even if ballistic matching is reliable (and I am not claiming that it is), the prosecutor would also have to prove that the barrel which matches the bullets was used in the defendant’s handgun — an impossibility since anyone could have operated that barrel in any matching handgun. The prosecutor would also have to prove that the defendant shot the handgun — another impossibility unless there is video surveillance of him shooting the handgun at one of the scenes where the police found casings.

      And the prosecutor still has not specified a motive!

      I predict that the prosecution’s case is going to evaporate rather quickly.

      1. avatar Dustin says:

        Seems like a really obvious defense that you would have heard before, right?

        Except it’s never gotten the chance to be used.

        Because ballistic fingerprinting is bunk and any prosecutor knows that if his case hinges upon it, it’ll fail.

        Such a case has never seen the inside of a courtroom in my lifetime, so such a defense has never been needed.

      2. avatar Dustin says:

        If you really wanted to get creative, run a flex hone through the barrel like it’s a bore snake. Don’t spin it, just yank it through a few times.


  17. avatar JSF001 says:

    If it went to the pawn shop 2 months ago, Merrit may no longer have the receipt. Of Couse there should be video cameras in the store so just look through the days recorded surveillances footage to see if he at least entered the store that day. If he did not the pawn shop is lying. I’d also check the surveillance footage of when Merritt claimed to sell the gun to see if he entered than, but suspect it probably has been recorded over by now.

  18. avatar Lurker_of_lurkiness says:

    “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man?”

    The shadow knows hahahahah hahahah ha

  19. avatar the ruester says:

    1:) google i10 shooter holes and look at the images. Those are not exactly head on, there’s a lot of arching, downward holes, some in the seats, dashboard, glancing off glass without breaking, etc.

    2) Only 4 of 11 fragments supposedly match the 9mm. So, up to 7 more guns to find. Up to 7 more shooters? All in that little area? Smells bad.

    Jojos pawn shop needs to have ALL it’s guns tested, period.

  20. avatar Guest says:

    It’s entirely possible that the pawn shop owner is an anti gun nut that has conspired with law enforcement to frame this guy,These anti gun nuts will do anything to manufacture false evidence to make law abiding gun owners look guilty of something they didn’t do.These types of crimes are usually the work of “bored teenagers”.If these charges are proven to be total BS,and I suspect they are,this guy is going to have one hellava lawsuit.

    1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

      Too funny!

    2. avatar the ruester says:

      The frame of this story seems to be “gun nut shoots up freeway, fellow nuts naturally copycat because gunzrbad.” Literally, they are now depicting guns as a charismatic Manson like figure that compels his followers to commit random anti-car violence. I should have realized this was happenig, when my AK posted that video of itself beheading a Buick.

  21. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Yeah I see lots of holes here too. BTW a few years ago in NW Indiana maybe a dozen cars/trucks were shot at on Cline Avenue. They NEVER caught anyone-even accused a poor black lady of shooting out her own window(yeah THAT was racist)…

  22. Sounds like a set up or cover up. Democrat, Republican they are the SAME coin and we are have been on a downhill slope and neither party has stopped the inflation, deflation or the ations.
    No double standards put the DC politicians on Obamacare and SS and then lets see where it goes.
    Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.

  23. avatar SuperG says:

    Any father is going to defend their kid, so that is sop. I’ll wait for the trial, as I find how they arrived at this guy being the culprit somewhat dubious.

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