Three people were killed and three injured in a mass shooting Saturday night at an Auburn apartment complex, police chief Tommy Dawson confirmed Sunday. Two of the injured victims are expected to survive, but a third is fighting for his life at UAB Hospital, Dawson said.
Dawson listed the names of the deceased as Ladarious Phillips, 20, Edward Christian, 20, and Demarco Pitts, 20. He confirmed the names of the injured as Xavier Moss, age 19, John Robertson, 20, and Eric Mack, 20. Robertson has life-threatening injuries from a gunshot wound to the head. Sunday night he was listed as in critical condition at UAB Hospital.
Moss was treated at East Alabama Medical Center and released. Current Auburn lineman Eric Mack was released from the hospital Sunday after receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the hip.
Phillips and Christian, both shot to death, were former Auburn football players. The Lee County Coroner pronounced Christian dead at the scene of the shooting. Pitts, the other fatality, was a 20-year-old Auburn resident.
Police got the report of a shooting at 10:03 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at the University Heights apartment complex, located less than two miles from Auburn University's campus.
The police chief said a fight broke out at a party at the apartment complex clubhouse. He would not confirm a motive for the shooting, but said at the press conference Sunday, "It was a fight that obviously someone got out of hand and shot and killed three people and critically injured another."
A witness to the shooting told Fox 6 Reporter Christy Hutchings the gunfire broke out due to a fight over a female.
Investigators have identified a suspect in the shooting: Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery. Three capital murder warrants have been obtained against Leonard. Multiple law enforcement agencies are actively searching for Leonard in the Montgomery area.
Police say the shooter fled the scene in a vehicle with two other men. A vehicle believed to be the one driven by the suspect, a white Chevy Caprice, was discovered on Wire Road in Macon County. Leonard was last seen on foot.
Dawson says Leonard had no connection to Auburn University as far as he could tell.
Leonard is considered armed and dangerous. Police are asking for the public's help in finding him. Anyone with information about Leonard's whereabouts is asked to call 911.
"Hopefully we'll make an arrest sometime today," Dawson said.
The FBI has offered a $15,000 reward for information that leads to Leonard's arrest.
The police chief said there are also two persons of interest in the case, the men who fled the scene with Leonard, but did not identify either person. He said more arrests in the case are possible.
In closing at the press conference, Chief Dawson said he is saddened by the tragedy and promised the city of Auburn's police division will do everything they can to bring the case to a close today.
"This is very much an unusual event for the city of Auburn and Auburn University. It's sickening that these young lives were cut short. And also, the shooter was such a young man. As a society we've got to learn the value of life again," Dawson said.
"If I could bring them back to their parents today, I would. To the families, please let it be known we're grieving with you," he said.
According to Auburn police, the case is being investigated by the Auburn Police Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshal's Service, Lee County Coroner's Office, and the State Medical Examiner's Office. The Montgomery Police Department, Opelika Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Office, and the Macon County Sheriff's Office are also assisting in the case.
Counseling services for Auburn students affected by the incident are available, the University posted on their website Sunday.
Coach Gene Chizik held a meeting with the Auburn football team on Sunday afternoon to discuss the shooting. None of the athletes have spoken publically about the shooting.
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