Freeway shootings update: Leslie Merritt Jr. files suit against Arizona, Maricopa County

PHOENIX - The only man ever charged in the 2015 freeway shootings case is now officially suing the State of Arizona.

Lawyers are claiming malicious prosecution against Leslie Merritt Jr.

The dollar amount of the lawsuit has not been released, but it is expected to be in the millions.

RELATED: Phoenix freeway shooting suspect Leslie Merritt Jr. talks to ABC15

The lawsuit names the State of Arizona, Maricopa County and County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Gov. Doug Ducey is not named in the paperwork, even after his now infamous “We got him!” tweet.

LAWSUIT DETAILS

The lawsuit claims all detectives in the DPS General Investigations Unit were assigned to the case.

On September 5, 2015, DPS officer Travis Graff started as a new detective in the General Investigations Unit. He was immediately assigned to the freeway shootings case.

According to court paperwork, Graff did not have any training with investigating weapon-related offenses, gun identification or ballistics.

Graff reportedly asked if he could use a pawn database to see if any Hi-Point 9 mm firearms (guns allegedly used in shootings) were in the pawn shops.

Court paperwork indicates Graff traveled to various pawn shops to collect Hi-Point 9mm Model C9 firearms. In all, DPS collected eight firearms, but tested Merritt’s gun first.

According to the documents, the DPS crime lab used flawed methodology to analyze the bullets and fragments; the bullets and fragments submitted to the crime lab contained insufficient data for a firearm examiner to make a positive individualized match.

Despite the methodology, the crime lab told detectives the bullets from all shootings were a “100% match” to Merritt’s gun and the four shootings.

DID DPS KNOW?

The lawsuit continues to claim that DPS knew or should have known the crime lab had botched the identification.

The lawsuit indicates DPS recognized that Merritt’s gun was at a pawn shop on August 30, 2015 at 5:31 p.m. before the time of the shooting where a car tire was shot.

According to court paperwork, it would have been physically impossible for Merritt’s gun to be used in one of the shootings when it was in the pawn shop.

DPS CHANGES STORY TO FIT THEORY

The lawsuit claims DPS invented a theory that the tire involved in the shooting must have been shot on a different day.

It was initially reported to have occurred on the evening of August 30th, but officials have since change their timelines with an incident on the 27th.

To bolster the theory, DPS conducted another interview with the driver of the BMW and suggested he was wrong.

The driver said he was still correct.

According to court paperwork, DPS recognized that only one of two scenarios could be true: the crime lab botched the investigation, or the shooting did not occur when Merritt’s gun was at the pawn shop.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

Merritt spent almost seven months behind bars before prosecutors dropped their charges after ballistic testing came back inconclusive.

Prosecutors and DPS officials both maintain that the case remains open and under investigation.

RELATED: Judge denies Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.'s request to get gun back

Merritt is also still the main suspect in the DPS investigation.

DPS Director Frank Milstead has said, "I believe we have enough evidence to develop probable cause to believe that (Merritt) is the correct suspect.”

Merritt's attorneys say they remain shocked at Milstead's comments.

Milstead made those comments on April 29. Five months later, Merritt is a free man and DPS is not commenting.

 

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