PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was arrested Friday and has been charged in four different shootings along valley freeways. Merritt Jr. told the judge over the weekend that they have the wrong guy.
"All I have to say is I'm the wrong guy, I tried telling the detectives that," said Leslie Merritt Jr.
But detectives say they have forensic evidence in the form of bullets and fragments that tie the shootings to Merritt's gun.
"My guns been in the pawn shop for the last two months, I haven't even had access to a weapon," he told the judge.
But DPS says that isn't true, that he sold the gun to the pawn shop after the shootings. He remains locked up behind bars on a one million dollar bond.
Court records indicate Merritt Jr. used the 9mm HiPoint pistol in the shootings. Ballistics evidence gave investigators the fingerprint they needed to match the bullets to the gun.
Every time a bullet is fired through a gun the bullet and shell casing are marked with very specific identifying features that are unique to that barrel.
"These are your grooves that create the rifling on the projectile or on the bullet... each gun is going to be different and offer a different fingerprint," said firearms expert Anthony Enriquez.
Enriquez says though a bullet becomes deformed once it strikes something, the riflings or striations remain.
That's how DPS investigators traced the bullets to a HiPoint 9mm pistol owned by Merritt Jr. Experts say that particular gun is inexpensive and difficult to operate.
"The HiPoint 9mm is a very budget friendly gun, you're not going to spend more than $200, it's the economy economy of guns. No respected shooting range would put a HiPoint on their counter and let people shoot it because it's dangerous," said Enriquez.
Although detectives may have proof that the bullets used in the I-10 shootings came from Merritt's gun, they must also prove that Merritt fired the gun during the incidents that took place on August 29 and 30.
"I don't think they have any ballistics residue, that stuff goes away quickly, they only have 24-48 hours before that gets tainted and compromised as far as being able to link him to actually shooting the gun," he said.
Experts say without evidence like gunshot residue, investigators will likely have to rely on witnesses or surveillance video to place Merritt Jr. at the shootings.