3 dead, 3 wounded in Auburn shooting; manhunt under way - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

3 dead, 3 wounded in Auburn shooting; reward offered for suspect

Desmonte Leonard (Source: Auburn Police Dept.) Desmonte Leonard (Source: Auburn Police Dept.)

City of Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson is confirming that three men have died and three others are injured following a late night shooting at an apartment complex near Auburn University Saturday.

Dawson confirmed the deceased victims as Demario Pitts, 20, of Opelika, Ala. Pitts died at East Alabama Medical Center. Also killed was Ladarious Phillips, 20, of Roanoke, Ala. He died at East Alabama Medical Center. The third fatally wounded victim was Edward Christian, 20, of Valdosta, Ga. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Both Phillips and Christian were former Auburn University football players.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris confirmed that all three deceased victims' bodies have been transported to the Alabama Dept. of Forensic Sciences Medical Examiner's office in Montgomery for autopsy.

Chief Dawson listed the injured victims as John Robertson, 20, and Xavier Moss, 19, both of Roanoke, Ala. The third victim is Eric Mack, 20, of Cameron, S.C.

Moss was treated and released from EAMC, while Mack, a current Auburn football player, was admitted for non-life-threatening injuries. Robertson is "fighting for his life" and is being treated at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

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A manhunt is underway for prime suspect Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, Ala. The suspect fled the scene of the shooting in a vehicle occupied by two other men. The automobile was found abandoned off Wire Road in neighboring Macon County. The two other males are also wanted for questioning, though their identities were not immediately known.

WSFA 12 News is researching Leonard's background, including a search for any prior criminal history. Leonard is wanted on three capital murder charges in this shooting case and is considered armed and dangerous. He should NOT be approached.

Alabama State Troopers confirmed Sunday morning they were assisting the Auburn Police Department by using an ABI helicopter in the search. Numerous law enforcement agencies are involved.

Chief Dawson said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that while he would not discuss evidence surrounding the case today, he could say there is a known motive. He did not elaborate.

The shooting happened at 10:03pm Saturday at the University Heights apartments, a large complex near the Auburn University campus where many Auburn students and athletes live. 

When officers arrived on the scene in the 200 block of West Longleaf Drive, they found multiple gunshot victims near the complex's clubhouse.

Witnesses say there was apparently a party and after an altercation occurred, shots rang out.

"It went from us chilling with females to a massacre...for no reason," one witness explained.

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. An additional tip line has been set up at (334) 223-5400.

The U.S. Marshals are offering a $5,000 for information leading to the capture of Leonard. The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Leonard's conviction.

Reaction to the shootings poured out following Dawson's news conference.

Auburn University President Jay Gouge issued this 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 Athletic Director Jay Jacobs issued this 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 head football coach Gene Chizik issued this 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."

Governor Robert Bentley issued this statement:

"We offer prayers and condolences for the Auburn community, the entire AU family, and all of those impacted by last night's tragedy." 

Auburn Mayor Bill Ham issued this 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."

Please hit REFRESH or check back shortly for more information on this developing story. You can also follow or coverage on Twitter or on Facebook for the latest details.

Copyright 2012 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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