Walls may not talk, but weapons forensic experts say bullets do.
And in the case of the I-10 freeway shootings, it’s bullets and a tip that led Department of Public Safety detectives to 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.
“This is a very specific weapon with very specific type of rifling characteristics, so it’s a very high probability that this is the right firearm,” said Erik Brown, a weapons forensic expert.
Brown has worked for the City of Phoenix and the Chandler Police Department conducting forensic and ballistic testing on weapons.
Brown told ABC15 the manufacturer of the gun listed in court papers that Merritt owned and DPS tested, actually aids police in tracing crimes.
“They use unique rifling characteristics and a lot of times they go through extra steps in the machining process in order to make the tool marks that this firearm produces that are very distinct and very different than most firearms in the market,” explains Brown.
The marks are so distinct, forensic experts only need a fragment of the bullet to identify the gun it came from.
But the forensic expert can’t say who pulled the trigger.
“There's a paper trail that he owned the firearm, so we would expect to find his finger prints and DNA on the firearm so that isn't all that probative. They're going to have to look for other sources, other witnesses or other surveillance information that can put him at the vicinity where shots were fire,” said Brown.
None of that type of evidence is listed in court papers.
But according to detectives, Merritt admitted to having the weapon in his possession since he “purchased it new” to “the time he pawned it for "extra money”.
Detectives wrote the gun was not in “pawn status” at the time of the first four shootings.
“That's going to be both sides trying to prove whether it was in pawn status or not,” said Brown, who also works as a forensic expert witness.