3 killed, 3 injured in Auburn shooting; $15K reward offered - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

3 killed, 3 injured in Auburn shooting; $15K reward offered for suspect

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Police released this image of Desmonte Leonard, 22, who they suspect opened fire at a party, killing 3 and injuring 3. Police released this image of Desmonte Leonard, 22, who they suspect opened fire at a party, killing 3 and injuring 3.
Auburn offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, is in the East Alabama Medical Center but is expected to survive. (Source:  AU Athletics) Auburn offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, is in the East Alabama Medical Center but is expected to survive. (Source: AU Athletics)
Ed Christian, 20, was found dead on arrival. Christian was an offensive lineman from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, GA, and signed to play with Auburn in February 2010. (Source: WALB) Ed Christian, 20, was found dead on arrival. Christian was an offensive lineman from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, GA, and signed to play with Auburn in February 2010. (Source: WALB)
LaDarious Phillips, 20, was a former Auburn football player who was pronounced dead at the East Alabama Medical Center. (Source: WBRC) LaDarious Phillips, 20, was a former Auburn football player who was pronounced dead at the East Alabama Medical Center. (Source: WBRC)
AUBURN, AL (WTVM) -

The manhunt continues for a gunman suspected of killing three people and wounding three others at a pool party near Auburn University.  Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson says 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard of Montgomery fled the scene in a white Chevrolet he abandoned in Macon County, AL – just 55 miles away. 

He faces three counts of capital murder and is accused of opening fire Saturday night after getting into a fight with some of the victims over a woman.

The shooting occurred about 10 p.m. at the University Heights apartment complex on West Longleaf Avenue.  The complex is home to many of Auburn University's students and athletes.

Officers found multiple gunshot victims near the complex's clubhouse.  Two of the slain victims were former football players who played on the university's 2010 national champion team. 

Edward Christian, LaDarious Phillips and Demario Pitts, all 20 years old, were shot to death late Saturday night.  Christian and Phillips were former Auburn University football players. Christian, sidelined with an injury, was found dead on the sidewalk and Phillips was pronounced dead at the East Alabama Medical Center. 

Xavier Moss, 19, was released from the hospital and John Robertson, 20, is currently fighting for his life at the UAB.  Auburn offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, is in the East Alabama Medical Center, but is expected to survive. 

Chief Dawson says they do have a motive as to why Leonard began firing shots but they are not releasing it at this time.  Leonard fled the scene along with two other men. The vehicle was later found abandoned off Wire Road in Macon County, AL.

A Montgomery man was arrested late Sunday for allegedly hindering a search for a gunman wanted for capital murder in Auburn.  The Montgomery Police Department, the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Auburn Police Department arrested 41-year-old Gabriel Thomas for providing false information to law enforcement officers searching for Leonard.   

Rewards totaling $15,000 are being offered for Leonard's arrest and conviction. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering $10,000, while the U.S. Marshals Service is offering a $5,000 reward. 

It seems Leonard is also no stranger to law. Reports indicate Leonard was arrested in the past for assault, theft of property, possession of a handgun without a license and failure to pay child support.  

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call the Auburn Police Division at (334) 501-3140 or anonymously by text or voice to the tip line at (334) 246-1391. 

Counseling is available for all Auburn University students affected by this weekend's tragedy. Students in need of immediate assistance can go the East Alabama Medical Center or call the East Alabama Mental Health Center's 24-hour toll-free line at (800) 815-0630. 

Daytime help is also available for students at AU's medical clinic located at the corner of Lem Morrison and Duncan Drives. Business hours are 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 



Auburn University President Jay Gouge's statement:

"We're deeply saddened about last night's tragic events that impacted the Auburn community and the Auburn family.  Our heart-felt condolences go out to the victims and their families.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.  We're in constant contact with area authorities and will continue to assist in any way possible.  Our attention is now focused on providing care and support to those touched by this tragedy."

Auburn Head Football Coach Gene Chizik's statement:

"This is a sad, sad day for everyone associated with the entire Auburn family. I am devastated by the passing of three young men, including two that I personally knew in Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and my heart goes out to their families. My thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of the victims involved in this tragic incident. Nobody should ever have to endure such unimaginable grief, and we will love and support the victims' families during this terribly difficult time. We have a lot of people on our football team that are hurting right now and we're going to do everything we can to help them get through this. We are relieved that Eric Mack, who was also a victim in this incident, is expected to make a full recovery. This is a very trying time for everyone involved, and I would just ask that you lift up the victims and their families in your prayers."

Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs' statement:

"This is a tragic day for the entire Auburn community. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families who have been devastated by this senseless tragedy. We will support the families of the victims in the difficult days ahead in every way that we possibly can. Our student-athletes are obviously stunned and deeply saddened, and we are providing counseling and support for them as they grieve the loss of their teammates and friends."

Auburn Mayor Bill Ham's statement:

"On behalf of the citizens of Auburn, I express our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of the tragic shooting in Auburn last night. We are distraught that violence was used in such a senseless way and young lives were lost. While violence is unsettling to our peaceful community, I have full confidence that our Police will handle this matter in a most professional manner, and will provide information to a concerned community as it is appropriate."

News Leader 9 will continue to follow this story and we'll post the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

Copyright 2012 WTVM. All rights reserved. 

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Desmonte Leonard turned himself in to authorities after a three-day manhunt. Leonard, 22, is accused of killing three people at an off-campus party near Auburn University. More>>

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