Manhunt ends as alleged Auburn shooter turns himself in
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)
Gabriel Thomas, left, was arrested for providing false information to authorities while Jeremy Thomas, right, was arrested for hindering the prosecution. (Source: Montgomery Police Department/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)
Ed Christian, 20, was pronounced 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)
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AUBURN, AL (RNN) – The three-day manhunt for the gunman who allegedly killed three at a party near Auburn University has ended.
Suspect Desmonte Leonard, 22, turned himself in "without incident" to U.S. Marshals on Tuesday night, according to attorney Susan James.
"The main concern was to get him into custody without somebody trying to take him out. We were able to do that," James said.
When asked what prompted him to turn himself in, James said "I think he was just tired, I think he wanted somebody to tell him what to do."
James has not been retained by Leonard but facilitated the handoff. James said she and her son picked up Leonard 50 miles from Montgomery before taking him to the U.S. Marshals.
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said the handoff took place at 7:57 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Montgomery, AL, with snipers along the roof of the building. U.S. Marshals as well as an FBI agent met Leonard at the door.
Leonard has been charged with three counts of capital murder and two counts of first degree assault. Dawson said there will be no bond.
"Thank you to the parents of these victims. I know your young men won't be coming home, but hopefully this arrest will give you some closure," Dawson said.
"We'll never forget the victims in this case and we'll never forget what happened Saturday night."
The arrest was made just a day after law enforcement agencies spent more than eight hours searching a house in Montgomery, AL, exhausting all tactical efforts to smoke out the man accused of opening fire at the party. The spray of bullets wounded three in addition to the three killed.
Leonard will be moved from Montgomery to Opelika, AL, which is near Auburn, for a court hearing on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Dawson.
In a news conference Tuesday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said police did the right thing when dozens of law enforcement officers converged upon the house about 6:30 p.m., working into well into the night to try to try to flush out the suspect.
"If that same set of circumstances happens tonight, we would do that same thing," Strange said.
Montgomery Police received a tip from the owner of the house saying a person matching Leonard's description was inside, sitting on their couch.
Dawson said the tip turned out to be a dud.
Strange said authorities believe Leonard was at the house at some point
during the day, but the gap between police arriving and the calls may
have provided him the opportunity to escape. The gap was between 15 and
20 minutes, Strange said.
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 in the end, authorities said they found the attic to be empty.
Murphy told members of the press that while officers were searching the home, authorities were following other leads in other parts of Montgomery.
Police tipped off by 911 call, U.S. Marshals: Shooter allegedly in Montgomery house
During the standoff, Strange said officers had not 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 was in the neighborhood.
According to Strange, the area where the house is located was also identified as a "possible location that the suspect might be in," and police had been in the area for a day or so.
U.S. Marshals were the first to be tipped off to Leonard's supposed presence in the house. An unidentified person told the agency he or she had dropped Leonard off at the house earlier in the day.
Murphy said the person who dropped Leonard off knew he was a suspect and was aiding him. As a result, he or she may face criminal charges.
Around the same time, Montgomery officials got their first 911 call that the suspect may be in the home.
A woman told emergency responders she had come home from work and found someone who matched Leonard's description on her couch.
Officers fired tear gas into the home in an attempt to get the suspect to surrender and tried to negotiate, but were unable to make verbal contact with him.
Murphy said the bottom floor of the house had been cleared and a tactical team went inside.
"It is a slow, methodical process," Murphy said. "The tactical team is highly armed and highly trained."
Murphy said 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, WSFA reported that Murphy and Strange were visibility disappointed that they were unable to find the suspect. They could not confirm the movement inside the attic was from Leonard.
Investigators drilled holes into walls and tore up parts of the house in their search. Strange said they were going to search the attic, as well as air conditioning ducts, for the suspect. Authorities said they would repay the homeowner for the damage.
Strange said that authorities "will spare no expense" in prosecuting if anyone purposely provides false information to authorities.
Police arrest two for hindering prosecution, providing false information
Earlier Monday, police announced they had made two arrests in the case, but Leonard had still eluded capture.
Jeremy Thomas, 18, was arrested for hindering the prosecution in the first degree on Monday. Auburn officials said he is one of two people who fled the scene with Leonard Saturday night.
Court records show Thomas has a criminal past. According to WSFA, he was arrested and charged with manslaughter after the death of a 14-year-old girl in June 2011. His trial date is set for June 18.
Police also arrested Gabriel Thomas, 41, late Sunday evening for providing false information to law enforcement officers it was determined he had made contact with the suspected shooter, WSFA reported. He was also charged with hindering the prosecution.
Three killed, three injured after gunfire erupts at late night party
Six people were shot after an argument at a party 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," Dawson said Sunday.
Police said they found a possible motive, but would not discuss the details of the case.
"It went from us chilling with females to a massacre … for no reason," an unidentified witness told Montgomery affiliate WSFA.
Despite early speculation that Auburn University football players may have opened fire at the party, Dawson told the press, "The only connection that the Auburn football program has to this is that they are victims of a brutal shooting."
Various faculty, staff members, students and fans have expressed grief and disbelief over the shooting.
"I am devastated by the passing of three young men, including two that I personally knew in Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips," Auburn football coach Gene Chizik said in a statement. "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."
"We're deeply saddened about last night's tragic events that impacted the Auburn community and the Auburn family," Auburn University President Jay Gogue said in a statement. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the victims and their families. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers."
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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