Ballistics expert weighs in on I-10 suspect release

Many people are now asking how the suspected freeway shooter Leslie Merritt Jr. was able to walk about of jail, what about the evidence that put him behind bars in the first place?

- Many people are now asking how the suspected freeway shooter Leslie Merritt Jr. was able to walk about of jail, what about the evidence that put him behind bars in the first place?

During a news conference last year the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced ballistic tests tied Merritt to the shootings. A valley firearms expert now weighs in on what could have happened.

Documents detailing why the judge reduced Merritt's bond to zero are sealed by a court order. But his attorneys had been arguing in court that the bullet evidence that put him behind bars may also prove his innocence.

"The test fired bullets were matched to bullet fragments from 4 cases, 4 casings over the last weekend in August," said Bart Graves.

Seven months after that announcement Merritt walked out of jail after attorneys called the ballistic tests into question.

"The state's own expert now says that the identification match that DPS made does not exist," said attorney Jason Lamm.

So many are asking how did it happen.

"It's not always a foolproof thing, ballistics are not a foolproof thing at all," said Anthony Enriquez.

Although forensic tests can successfully link a bullet to a specific gun, firearms experts say the quality of the evidence can affect the outcome of the tests.

"Here's a good example of perfect evidence, striations, and the rifling marks, everything is perfect," said Enriquez.

But more than likely he says the evidence DPS has looks misshapen and fragmented.

"You see where the skewering, that's where the issues can occur, and these were just shot into cars the same way," he said.

When a bullet hits an object the evidence then becomes disfigured, and that affects the lab results Enriques says. Having a second set of investigate eyes on the evidence helped Merritt in this case because it appears a secondary ballistic analysis did not come to the same conclusion as DPS.

"So it's not always a for sure thing, everything depends on the type of ammunition, the type of gun, and the type of object that it was shot into," said Enriquez.

Merrit's trial is expected to begin in June.


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