PHOENIX - An Arizona jury on Nov. 6 rejected a landscaper’s lawsuit against the state over his arrest in metro Phoenix’s 2015 freeway shootings.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found the state not liable on Leslie Merritt Jr.’s claims of false arrest and false imprisonment.
Merritt, who spent seven months in jail, testified Monday that he didn’t have any involvement in the attacks and that publicity from his now-dismissed criminal case has caused deep problems in his life.
Leslie Merritt Jr.
Authorities say 11 shootings were carried out on metro Phoenix’s freeways in late August and early September 2015. No one was seriously injured when bullets or other projectiles struck 11 vehicles.
This past summer, a judge who is not connected to the civil case took the rare step of issuing an order declaring that Merritt had been officially cleared of criminal allegations in the shooting case.
Merritt’s lawsuit alleged authorities pursued charges even though they knew his handgun was at a pawn shop during the last of the four shootings with which he was charged. He also accused the Department of Public Safety of changing the timeline of the shooting to fit a theory that a bullet from Merritt’s gun got lodged in the sidewall of a tire. The agency has denied both allegations.
Maricopa County paid Merritt $100,000 in 2018 to settle legal claims against then-County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office, which prosecuted Merritt, officials said.