A police SWAT team on Friday arrested a suspect in a string of shootings along an Arizona freeway that have put drivers on edge over recent weeks, the governor said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the arrest on Twitter shortly before 7 p.m. local time, with a post that began: “We got him!”
The man in custody owned a weapon that was “forensically linked” to the first four shootings, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said at a news conference on Friday night.
“The weapon and the man we believe is responsible for starting that spree is in custody,” Milstead said.
The first three shootings occurred on Aug. 29 and the fourth the following night, according to a timeline of the Arizona Department of Public Safety website.
Milstead noted that other shooters may have also been involved in the other shootings. “I believe we have some copycats that decided to participate,” he said.
A spokesperson for the governor told NBC affiliate KPNX that the suspected shooter was 21-year-old Leslie Allen Merritt, who was arrested at a Walmart in Glendale, Arizona. Officials have not confirmed the suspect’s name.
Eleven vehicles were shot at on or near the I-10 freeway running through Phoenix since Aug. 29, authorities have said, although some of those incidents involved bullets and others were what has been only described as projectiles.
Ducey praised the work of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and said the investigation remains ongoing.
The last confirmed shooting was on Sept. 10, when a bullet strike was found on a truck-tractor — although it wasn’t clear when and where the vehicle was when it was shot. The only person injured in the shootings was a 13-year-old girl hurt by flying glass.
Three of the shootings involved unspecified projectiles while eight involved bullets, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has said. One of the shootings involving bullets was preceded by a “road rage” incident, police said.
Some drivers told NBC News they were avoiding using the freeway over fear of being shot. A reward of $50,000 was offered for information leading to an arrest.
Earlier Friday, a local 19-year-old who had been described as a “person of interest” in the case was ordered released from jail. He was never named as a suspect in the shootings, and authorities never explained why he was considered a person of interest.
Prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss a petition to revoke the man’s probation after police failed to provide a police report or investigation documents, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said. The 19-year was detained on Sept. 11 but was booked on a possession of marijuana charge.