Gun tests link suspect to Phoenix freeway shootings – National

PHOENIX – Soft-spoken and handcuffed, a 21-year-old landscaper insists that he is not responsible for a string of Phoenix freeway shootings and that his gun has been sitting in a pawn shop for months.

Despite Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.’s impromptu assertion in court Saturday, investigators said they have proof that the gun wasn’t in any pawn shop at the time of four shootings they say he carried out.

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Newly released charging documents detail the detective work that traced the gun to the suspect after he took it to a pawn shop. Weapons from various local pawn shops were test-fired at the state lab, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said.

The Glendale resident faces several charges, including aggravated assault, criminal damage, disorderly conduct, carrying out a drive-by shooting and intentional acts of terrorism. Merritt told a judge that authorities have “the wrong guy.”

READ MORE: SWAT team arrests man suspected in string of Phoenix-area freeway shootings

In a brief court appearance, a prosecutor said Merritt should face a high bail after drivers spent the last three weeks on edge. Overall, 11 freeway shootings were reported, but Merritt is only charged in four.

“The suspect presents a dramatic and profound threat to the community,” said Ed Leiter of the Maricopa County attorney’s office.

Superior Court Commissioner Lisa Roberts set bail at $1 million, and Merritt, who had remained quiet during the proceedings, asked to address the court.

“All I have to say is I’m the wrong guy. I tried telling the detectives that. My gun’s been in the pawn shop the last two months. I haven’t even had access to a weapon,” he said as he stood handcuffed in a black and white striped jail uniform.

But a charging document released late Saturday night by Maricopa Superior Court said that investigators determined Merritt had not pawned his gun at the time of the incidents.

Merritt was arrested Friday evening after a SWAT team swarmed him at a Wal-Mart in Glendale. Minutes later, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed on 桑拿会所, “We got him!”

Graves said the break in the case was the result of exhaustive investigative work. Evidence from shell casings and bullet fragments determined that a gun Merritt pawned was used in four of the shootings on Aug. 29 and 30, Graves said. A tour bus, SUV and two cars were hit by bullets on Interstate 10 on those days.

Graves declined to comment on Merritt’s statement in court that his gun was in the pawn shop at the time of the shootings and similar statements made by his family.

“The evidence as you’ll see in the next couple of days speaks for itself,” Graves said. “We’re not going to get in a debate about that.”

The charging document said that investigators determined by testing that the bullets and the bullet fragments from four incidents came from a gun that was owned by the suspect.

Burges McCowan, a criminal defence attorney who used to work as a Maricopa County prosecutor, said he would piece together where Merritt was during the shootings if he were handling his case.

“I suppose it’s always possible the state jumped the gun and didn’t thoroughly look through his timeline before going after him,” McCowan said. “But I would hope in a case this important, they would make sure that the gun was not pawned during the time of the shootings.”

McCowan said he would also emphasize the other incidents and why Merritt hasn’t been charged in those. He also would not have allowed him to talk in court.

“I would agree with the judge who told him he shouldn’t talk. He might have pinned himself in now for his defence,” McCowan said. “If the records don’t match up with that statement, he’s made his situation worse.”

Eleven vehicles in all were hit by bullets or other projectiles, such as BBs or pellets, while driving along Phoenix freeways between Aug. 29 and Sept. 10. There have been no serious injuries, although a 13-year-old girl’s ear was cut by glass when a bullet shattered a car window.

Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said the investigation continues into who is behind the other shootings.

Messages seeking tips about the shootings will remain posted on electronic signs along freeways, and a $50,000 reward is still available, Graves said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Merritt’s father was adamant that his son had nothing to do with the shootings and 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,” the elder Merritt said. He said his son likes guns but is not a criminal.

Merritt Jr.’s Facebook page, confirmed by his father, has two video clips that show him firing guns into the desert toward a palm tree, exclaiming “whoo” after squeezing off a round.

The Wal-Mart where Merritt Jr. was arrested Friday is 6 miles north of where some of the shootings occurred along I-10, a major route through the city.

The shootings prompted several school districts to keep their buses off freeways, and some commuters altered their routes.

Associated Press writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.

Edmonton sheep farmer given more time to say goodbye to his flock – Edmonton

EDMONTON — An Edmonton hobby farmer has been given extra time to part ways with his flock of sheep after the City of Edmonton ordered him to get rid of the animals earlier this summer.

David Koch originally had until Sunday, Sept. 20 to find new homes for 50 sheep he’s been keeping at his 1.14-acre property in the Ellerslie area. However, Koch said Animal Control contacted him Sunday morning to say he now has until Oct. 14 to relocate the animals.

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“Saturday afternoon was frantic. I even phoned the humane society. I was thinking I was going to have to butcher some sheep,” Koch said Sunday afternoon. “All of a sudden, Sunday, today, early in the morning he phones me up and he’s offering me one to two weeks up to October 14.”

Keith Scott with the City of Edmonton’s Animal Control department said he could tell Koch was making every effort to find new homes for his animals, so he thought it was only fair to give him a slight extension to make the necessary arrangements.

Koch is happy he won’t have to destroy any of his animals.

“The train is already moving, people are coming up to pick up the sheep,” said Koch, “but it’s nice to have that little bit of extra breathing space so you can find the right person for the right sheep rather than just shoving them all of to somebody who won’t care.”

Earlier this summer, a bylaw officer stumbled upon Koch’s herd somewhat by accident. The officer happened to be driving past Koch’s property and saw several sheep on the side of the road. After speaking to Koch, the officer learned his property was not zoned for livestock.

The city ordered Koch to get rid of the sheep or face a fine of $500 per animal, totalling $25,000. Throughout the process, city officials said they were never taking aggressive enforcement and were confident they could work with Koch to find suitable homes for his animals.

Vancouver artist uses Suzy Patrick’s chopper photos for new exhibit

When David Wilson was deciding on Vancouver locations for his latest exhibit of paintings, he wanted to capture classic Vancouver scenes from a new perspective.

“I have wanted to paint images of Vancouver from up above, an aerial view, for a long time,” he said.

He soon became inspired, like so many others, by Global BC traffic reporter Suzy Patrick’s photographs from the Global 1 helicopter.

“You can see everything at once,” says Patrick of her eye in the sky view.

“You can see four different types of weather, the view is absolutely astonishing and absolutely gorgeous. To see all the bridges and sunrises and sunsets, I’m very very lucky.”

Wilson reached out to Patrick through a mutual friend, and he used three of her photos as inspiration for ‘Light and Colour’, a new exhibition running at Kimoto Gallery until October 10.

GALLERY: Wilson’s works inspired by Suzy Patrick’s photos

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“They’re not an accurate version of Vancouver per se, I’m starting from a base of what Vancouver looks like, but adding more depth and more of my personality to the image,” says Wilson.

“When you start working with geography from great heights, it becomes more of an abstract composition as opposed to a literal thing that you’re painting. It’s an opportunity to invoke more of myself into that image, so it was a bit of a challenge.”

Patrick was ecstatic with the final product.

“My eyes watered when I first saw them,” she said.

“I was blown away how he was able to capture the photo and able to interpret it. I was so flattered he was inspired.”

Woman in life-threatening condition after double shooting at Toronto restaurant – Toronto

TORONTO — A woman is fighting for her life in hospital after she and another man were shot inside a downtown Toronto restaurant on Sunday night.

Police say they responded to a 9:50 p.m. shooting call at Michael’s, an upscale steakhouse on Simcoe Street. Two patrons, a 29-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman both suffered gunshot wounds.

Police believe the shootings were targeted.

“You hear shots you hear noises, screams, breakage, I was on the phone, you know, it was very scary,” said restaurant owner Michael Dabic.

“They were in and out, they knew who to look for and they knew where they were. They weren’t searching the restaurant — the people that shot them, they knew where they were.”

Police said the suspects fled the area on foot.

Both victims were rushed to hospital with the male suffering from non-life threatening injuries. Meanwhile, the woman remains in critical condition.

Police say they are looking for witnesses and anyone with information is urged to come forward.

“We have numerous shell casings recovered. It would appear that no one else was targeted,” said Det. Paul Ward of 52 division, adding that police ascertained from evidence and witness statements that the hooting was not an indiscriminate “melee shooting.”

“Two suspects wearing masks came in and shot them. The man was shot in the neck and the woman was shot in the hip.”

Dabic also released an official statement Monday, saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with the couple involved in the targeted shooting and we wish them both a speedy recovery.”

With files from Caryn Lieberman


Canadian Air Force veterans honoured with monument in Griesbach – Edmonton

EDMONTON — Eight Royal Canadian Air Force veterans were honoured Sunday during a ceremony at the Village at Griesbach, a former military site in north Edmonton.

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell was on hand to unveil the Ad Astra monument, which honours the historic links between Edmonton and Canada’s Air Force.

“We can all be thankful that our Canadian heroes found the courage, the tenacity and the strength to make it through the challenges of the second world war and the many battles before and since,” said Mitchell.

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Meaning “to the stars,” Ad Astra is a 10-metre tall stainless steel sculpture. It represents a “star burst,” which is an aerobatic maneuver.

“If you stand underneath that monument and you look up, you can imagine anything, whether you’re in the military or not,” said Brigadier-General Bill Buckham with the RCAF Commemorative Society. “It should stimulate your imagination, your dreams and hopefully the desire to learn and to excel.”

Buckham, who spent 36 years in the Air Force, was part of the volunteer team that spent the past five years designing the monument.

“As Air Force, we said we have to have something to look up to and I think you can look up to this.”

Also Sunday, the names of eight streets in the Village of Griesbach were renamed after eight Air Force veterans. Among those getting the honour was Bob Morgan, who spent 36 years as an Air Force pilot.

“It’s a great honour but it still hasn’t sunk in yet why I should get it,” said a very humble Morgan.

“When they first told me, when they said they were naming a street after me, I thought it would be a back alley or dead end street,” he added with a laugh.

READ MORE: Edmonton honouring Royal Canadian Air Force

While stationed in France in 1955, Morgan rescued a pilot from a burning plane that crashed. He broke the canopy and pulled the unconscious pilot to safety. While his memory of the ordeal is faint, Morgan was given the George Medal for bravery.

“Anybody would have done it. You don’t think, it’s just automatic.”

Sunday’s ceremony was part of Royal Canadian Air Force Week, which was declared by the City of Edmonton last Monday.

Woman, 34, dies during Montreal Marathon

MONTREAL – About 35,000 runners took part in the 25th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal Marathon, with runners enjoying live concerts taking place at various venues along the way.

The event took a tragic turn however, after a 34-year-old woman passed after going into cardiac arrest.

Dr. François de Champlain,  Medical Director for the Montreal Marathon issued the following statement:

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“We regretfully confirm that a participant passed away at today’s Montreal Marathon. As fellow runners we are deeply saddened by this tragic situation and wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the participant’s loved ones.”

Another man collapsed at the finish line, but is now in a hospital recovering.

It was a competition that attracted talent from across the world.

Alex Bennett, vice-president of events for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, noted that 53 countries were represented, as were all 50 states in the United States and all the provinces in Canada.

But it was ultimately runners from Quebec who finished on top.

Thirty-four-year old marathon champion, Nicholas Berrouard was all smiles after his hard work and efforts finally paid off.

“I’ve been training for seven years because my first marathon was in 2008. But this year, I really pushed up the volume,” he said.

“It’s the second time someone from Quebec wins the marathon in 25 years, so I’m pretty proud of that.”

It was neck and neck up until the finish line.

“The battle was really hard up to the end. It was just 13 seconds between me and the second,” added Berrouard.

In the female category, it was 27-year-old Geneviève Asselin Demers, from Repentigny who walked away with the 1st place prize.

“I am very very very happy. And I don’t have any words to describe how I feel,” she said

“I don’t have any sponsors. I just run because it’s my passion.”

The race raised significant funds for charities.

“We have 18 different charities involved with this race. The main one is Tel-jeunes, who we wrote a check to for $32, 000 earlier,” Bennett told Global News.

Terry Fox Run marks 35th anniversary – Regina

REGINA – “The dream of curing cancer seems so formidable and unbelievable, but it was Terry Fox’s dream and we get closer and closer and closer every year,” said Terry Fox Run organizer Bill Schwartz.

For 35 years the people of Regina have been remembering Terry Fox by continuing his Marathon of Hope. Schwartz feels the extraordinary nature of Fox’s attempt to run across Canada for cancer research is why it has been continued for so long.

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“At the Queen City marathon people would say I can’t believe Terry Fox ran a marathon a day. Every day he ran a 42 k. It’s the tenacity and resiliency.”

Schwartz is no stranger to cancer. He served as a hospital Chaplin for five years and held vigil with many families while they battled cancer. It has also entered his personal life several times.

“I was 21 when I watched my father die. Three years later I did my mother-in-law’s funeral. Three years ago I did my sister-in-law’s funeral and she’s a year younger than I am. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 30.”

Schwartz has now been cancer free for about 16 years.

“I’ve seen the pain that cancer causes. Not just for those individuals with cancer, but also how it affects their families.”

One family that comes together every year for the run are the Richmond’s who run as Dani’s Team.

“She was diagnosed in the fall, and within six months she was gone,” said Dani’s cousin Erin Richmond. “She had a four year old kid and a husband. We like to get together because toward the end of her life she made a pretty good commitment to fitness.”

The family raised $5,000 in the first run they did and have been fundraising ever since. While they help The Terry Fox Foundation they are also helping themselves.

“I think it’s helped with healing, and just taking a day to really think about her and what she did for our family. It’s a fantastic way to remember her and honour her,” said Erin.

This year’s run has raised $23,000 so far. The final tally is still being calculated, and once it is organizers anticipate that the event will pass the $1 million mark for total funds raised in the event’s history.

‘Room’ wins top prize at TIFF 2015

TORONTO – Room has won the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The drama, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson and Vancouver’s Jacob Tremblay, won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award.

Based on Canadian author Emma Donoghue’s novel, the story follows a mother and her young son, who believes the shed they live in is the entire world.

WATCH: Trailer for Room

The inaugural Platform Prize, which is worth $25,000 and chosen by a jury, went to the Canadian film Hurt by Alan Zweig.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Award is often a predictor of Academy Award success.

Last year’s winner was “The Imitation Game,” which went on to get eight Oscar nominations, nabbing one golden statuette for best adapted screenplay.

WATCH: Brie Larson reacts to positive feedback on her new film Room



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©2015The Canadian Press

‘Baby Doe’ dad: Mom’s boyfriend thought girl was possessed

BOSTON — The father of a 2-year-old girl whose body was found on a Boston-area beach in June says her mother has told him her boyfriend killed the child because he believed she was possessed by demons.

Joseph Amoroso, 32, spoke in interviews Saturday with The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald at the beach on Deer Island where little Bella Bond’s body was found June 25.

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A composite image of the girl, dubbed Baby Doe during the investigation, had been viewed by millions as authorities tried to identify her. The big break came almost three months later when Boston police received a tip and a search warrant was executed Thursday at the apartment of her mother, Rachelle Bond.

Amoroso says Bond told him her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, fatally injured Bella, and that she died weeks before her body was found in a trash bag washed up on the beach. Amoroso said Bond told him that McCarthy kept reminding her afterward that Bella was a “child of Satan.”

READ MORE: Boston’s ‘Baby Doe’ identified

Amoroso says he believes Bond has told him the truth and he doesn’t believe she would have harmed Bella.

Prosecutors and police announced Friday that Bella was Baby Doe. They said McCarthy, 35, is been charged with murder, and Bond, 40, as an accessory after the fact. Both are to be arraigned Monday.

McCarthy’s attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, declined to comment Sunday on the case except to say that he expects McCarthy, who has been hospitalized, to be in court Monday. Repeated attempts to reach relatives of McCarthy have been unsuccessful.

Bond’s attorney, Janice Bassil, did not immediately return a message Sunday seeking comment.

Prosecutors have said they’ll wait until the arraignment to release further details.

Amoroso said he has been in Florida for a couple of years and returned to Massachusetts in August hoping to reconnect with his daughter, whom he never met. He told the Globe he talked with Bella on the telephone a few times.

He said Bond told him this week what happened to their child, and stayed with him in Lynn on Thursday night. He said he was questioned Friday. Amoroso has not been charged.

On Saturday, he brought a Bible to a shrine community members have built in Winthrop near where Bella’s body was found, and reflected the daughter he never knew.

“I’m going to have to forgive myself to find some serenity,” he told the Herald.

©2015The Canadian Press

Blue Jays fall 4-3 to Red Sox, drop two of three games to Boston

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays’ usually smooth defence was due for a misfire.

Toronto had three errors and other defensive miscues as the Boston Red Sox rallied past the Blue Jays 4-3 on Sunday afternoon, their second straight loss.

“We’ve been playing outstanding defence so we’re due for a clunker like this,” said starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, who was charged with an error in the fourth inning. “We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and be ready for the Yankees.”

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READ MORE: Ortiz hits go-ahead single in ninth as Red Sox come back to beat Blue Jays

The Blue Jays open a crucial three-game set with the New York Yankees on Monday in Toronto. Sunday’s loss narrowed the Blue Jays’ lead over New York in the American League East standings to three games.

Buehrle, who has won four Gold Gloves (2009-12), pitched six solid innings, giving up eight hits and three runs. Relievers Liam Hendriks, Brett Cecil, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins all came out of Toronto’s bullpen.

Lowe allowed Pablo Sandoval’s decisive run for the Red Sox (71-77), although he had reached base on an error by Cecil. Cecil (3-5) earned the loss as a result.

“Unfortunately, a lot of things didn’t go our way,” said catcher Dioner Navarro. “But we’ve got to go through that adversity. We’ll be alright. We’re right where we want to be.”

WATCH: Blue Jays fans make hilarious parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’

Navarro had a home run for Toronto (85-64), while Ben Revere had an RBI single.

Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in Sandoval with a sacrifice fly to deep centre field for the winning run in the eighth inning. Outfielder Kevin Pillar made an impressive throw to try to get Sandoval out at home, but the ball skidded on the hop to Navarro and bounced away.

“I knew if I was going to move to go get (the ball before it bounced) I wasn’t going to have time to go back and tag him, so I stood my ground,” said Navarro. “Unfortunately the ball hit the lip of the grass and kinda shot up on me.

“I think if the ball would’ve hit the grass only I would’ve had a better chance.”

Russell Martin, pinch hitting for shortstop Ryan Goins in the ninth, brought the 46,743 in attendance to their feet with a two-out double, but that was as close as Toronto got to tying the game and forcing extra innings.

READ MORE: Stroman shines in 2015 home debut, holds Red Sox in check as Jays win 6-1

Rich Hill (1-0), making his second MLB start since 2009, struck out 10, giving up seven hits and three runs over seven innings for Boston. Noe Ramirez pitched an inning of scoreless relief before Robbie Ross Jr. came in for the save.

Navarro put the Blue Jays ahead 2-0 with a two-run shot just to the right of the left-field foul pole. He drove in Edwin Encarnacion who had led off the second inning with a single to left field.

Toronto continued to rally after Navarro’s homer, as Kevin Pillar reached base on a dribbler to first, sliding into the base. Goins then hit a single and Revere made it 3-0 with a single that plated Pillar.

Xander Bogaerts’ smart base running chipped away at Toronto’s lead, scoring on an error charged to Buehrle. David Ortiz had grounded out to first baseman Chris Colabello, with Buehrle covering the bag. Bogaerts ran to third base when he realized none of the Blue Jays were covering it and Buehrle’s throw bounced past Josh Donaldson into foul territory, allowing the Red Sox shortstop to score.

Boston’s Travis Shaw tied it at 3-3 with an RBI single in the fifth inning, driving in Mookie Betts and Bogaerts with a hit to shallow left field.

Betts had reached first on what could have been a double play by second baseman Cliff Pennington, but his throw to Colabello was off the mark.

“It was costly we didn’t turn that double play. That led to a run,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “But it’s tough to complain about the defence for the last couple of months.

“If we don’t score a lot we’re going to have trouble winning. That got us again today.”

Goins’s error in the sixth inning allowed Bradley to reach first, but a pop fly by Betts ended Boston’s inning without any runs scored.

©2015The Canadian Press