Auburn police chief: "This has gone on long enough" | News
AUBURN, AL (WTVM)- As the manhunt stretches into day three, Chief Tommy Dawson says Monday night's police response to a Montgomery home, allowed the public to see just how dedicated Alabama law enforcement is to capturing the suspected killer, 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard.
Leonard is accused of opening fire at a pool party near Auburn University, killing three people and wounding three others.
Monday night, investigators spent more than 8 hours searching the Montgomery home, using thermal technology and tactical efforts to smoke out the suspect they believed was inside.
"Montgomery police got a 911 call that Mr. Leonard was in the home, and went to great lengths to clear the home and make sure it was safe. I would like to thank them for their efforts," said Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson.
Investigators said they believed they heard sounds of movement and even coughing, but it turned out Leonard was not hiding in the attic and is still on the run.
It was announced in the news conference Tuesday morning that Leonard is probably still in the Montgomery area. In addition, rewards for information leading to his arrest and conviction were raised to $30,000.
"I spoke to the mother of Mr. Leonard [Monday] and I understand what she is going through. This morning she told me if she could make contact with him she would do all she could to get him to turn himself in. If he is watching today, I implore him; this has gone on long enough. We're going to apprehend him," said the Auburn police chief.
Three people were killed, including two former Auburn football players who were on the 2010 National Championship team. Two others were treated for wounds, while a third victim is still fighting for his life at UAB Medical Center.
Dawson says local, state and federal agencies are working 24/7, following leads, trying to bring a sliver of closure to the families of Edward Christian, Ladarious Phillips, and Demario Pitts; the three men shot and killed Saturday night at University Heights.
"Let's not forget why we are trying to locate him. He has taken three kids, at this point, from their families. They came to Auburn and they won't go home. What if you had lost your son in such a senseless way?"
Chief Dawson says he's focused on praying and comforting the families and finding the alleged gunmen. He seemed somewhat offended, when a reporter described Monday night's search at the home as a huge "song and dance".
"When you are looking for the killer of three men, I don't think that is a song and dance. I think Desmonte Leonard is still at large. I think three families are grieving this morning. I think one lady is praying a lot with her son at the hospital, her son shot in the head. So please don't call it a song and dance, we have dedicated men and women risking their lives to bring a murderer to justice," said Chief Dawson.
In a separate news conference Tuesday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said, "If that same set of circumstances happens tonight, we would do that same thing. We know there's at least one, if not two that have tried to give us misinformation."
Two men, Jeremy Thomas and Gabriel Thomas, were arrested this week for hindering prosecution.
Leonard 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 was reported around 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.
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.
- Police used thermal technology and other methods to determine there was a person in the attic. Investigators said they heard coughing and movement in the attic.
- Authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies spent more than eight hours searching a house.
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