Colonel Frank Milstead, Director of Department of Public Safety holds a press conference to announce the arrest of a suspect in the Phoenix freeway shootings, at DPS headquarters, Sept.18, 2015. 
Photo by David Wallace/The Arizona Republic/AP

Suspect arrested in Arizona freeway shootings, governor says

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 with a post that began: “We got him!”

Leslie Allen Merritt, 21, was arrested at a Walmart in Glendale, Arizona.

He 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.

Leslie Allen Merritt, 21, was arrested at a Walmart in Glendale, Arizona.

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He 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 first three shootings occurred on Aug. 29 and the fourth the following night, hitting a tour bus, SUV and two cars, all of them on Interstate 10. No one was injured.

Milstead noted that others may have also been involved in the remaining shootings. “I believe we have some copycats that decided to participate,” he said.

Merritt’s father told the Associated Press that his son had nothing to do with the shootings and that anyone who says he was involved is a “moron.” Leslie Merritt Sr. said he believes his son is being made a scapegoat by police who were desperate to make an arrest under immense public pressure. “He has way too much value for human life to even take the slightest or remotest risk of actually injuring someone,” he said.

Merritt faces a range of charges that include criminal endangerment, assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

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.

“Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible,” Milstead said.

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.

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.

Arizona and Gun Violence

Suspect arrested in Arizona freeway shootings, governor says