Cops leave Auburn shooting suspect standoff - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Cops leave Auburn shooting suspect standoff

Police released this image of Desmonte Leonard, 22, who they suspect opened fire at a party, killing 3 and injuring 3. (Source: Auburn Police Division) Police released this image of Desmonte Leonard, 22, who they suspect opened fire at a party, killing 3 and injuring 3. (Source: Auburn Police Division)
The scene of the standoff located in a neighborhood off of Young Farm Road between Vaughn and Bell Road on Barons Court. (Source: WSFA) The scene of the standoff located in a neighborhood off of Young Farm Road between Vaughn and Bell Road on Barons Court. (Source: WSFA)
Former Auburn football players 20-year-old LaDarious Phillips, left, and 20-year-old Ed Christian, right, were shot and killed Saturday night. (Source: WBRC/WALB) Former Auburn football players 20-year-old LaDarious Phillips, left, and 20-year-old Ed Christian, right, were shot and killed Saturday night. (Source: WBRC/WALB)

MONTGOMERY, AL (RNN) - According to the Associated Press, authorities have left the home where they believed the gunman in a weekend shooting near Auburn University may have been hiding out.

Police believed Desmonte Leonard was hiding the attic of the home in east Montgomery, AL, about 50 miles west of where the shootings took place.

Leonard is facing three counts of capital murder in the Saturday night shooting during a party at apartments near the university.

Among the dead are two former Auburn football players. Leonard also is accused of wounding three others and killing a third person.

As of 2:30 a.m. CT, the Associated Press reported "all law enforcement agents that had been there [left] without comment. It wasn't immediately clear why they left."

Police used thermal technology and other methods to determine there was a person in the attic. Investigators also said they heard coughing and movement in the attic, but said they had not heard those sounds for hours.

During the standoff, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said officers hadn't made visual contact with the person in the house, but that officers received two 911 calls, one which "indicated that a person who looked like this suspect might be in this house." The other call reported a person who looked like the suspect in the neighborhood.

"It's a waiting game," Strange said. "It would be very difficult for us to go in, but if we have to, we will."

Officers fired tear gas into the home in an attempt to get Leonard to surrender. Police said they also tried to negotiate with him, but they were unable to make verbal contact.

Montgomery Police Chief Chris Murphy said authorities had cleared the bottom floor of the home and sent a tactical team inside.

"It is a slow, methodical process," Murphy said. "The tactical team is highly armed and highly trained."

He added that officers continued to get "physical indicators he's alive, he's just hunkered down," but said sending teams into the attic would be risky.

"You start looking for someone who may be armed, someone who has nothing to lose, you just cannot rush it," he said.

By the night's end, Montgomery's WSFA reported that Murphy and Strange were visibility disappointed and could not confirm that the movement inside the attic was from Leonard.

Investigators drilled holes in the house, tearing parts of it apart as part of their search. Strange said police were searching the attic and air conditioning ducts for the suspect.

Authorities said they would repay the homeowner for the damage.

Earlier Monday, police made two arrests, but Leonard, the suspected gunman, eluded capture.

Six people were shot after an argument at a party at the University Heights apartment complex, just a mile and a half from the Auburn campus, around 10 p.m. Saturday night.

Former Auburn offensive lineman Ed Christian, 20, and fullback LaDarious Phillips, 20, were both shot to death. Christian had been playing with the team, but left because of injury and was found dead at the scene. Phillips was pronounced dead at the East Alabama Medical Center.

Auburn resident DeMario Pitts, 20, was also killed.

Another player set to join the team's offensive line, 20-year-old Eric Mack, was among the injured, although he is expected to survive. Xavier Moss, 19, was treated and released from the East Alabama Medical Center. John Robertson, 20, is still struggling for life at the UAB Medical Center with critical injuries.

"It was a fight that obviously someone got out of hand and shot and killed three people and critically injured another," said Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson.

Police said they found a possible motive, but would not discuss the details of the case.

A witness to the shooting told Birmingham's WBRC the fight started over a woman.

"It went from us chilling with females to a massacre … for no reason," an unidentified witness told Montgomery affiliate WSFA.

The case is being investigated by the Auburn Police Division, the FBI, the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Lee County Coroner's Office and the State Medical Examiner's Office. Members of the Montgomery and Opelika police departments and the Lee County and Macon County sheriff's offices are also assisting in the case.

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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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