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Judge Orders Return Of Handgun To Man Once Charged In Freeway Shootings

A judge ordered investigators to return a handgun belonging to a man once charged in a series of shootings on metro Phoenix's freeways.

Leslie Merritt Jr. was accused in a series of shootings back in the summer of 2015.

The case against Merritt was dismissed after an expert said the Department of Public Safety's crime lab incorrectly concluded that ballistic evidence linked Merritt's gun to four of the 11 shootings. The shootings occurred in late August and early September of 2015.

Merritt, who insisted he was innocent, is the only person arrested in the shootings. Authorities said the gun was evidence in an ongoing investigation.

The ruling Friday came eight months after charges against Merritt were dismissed.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety must return the gun to Merritt by Jan. 31.

Al Macias, former KJZZ news director, is part of an elite class of trusted, veteran journalists who have covered Arizona news for more than 30 years.