Auburn Police Chief: A "relief" to have Leonard in custody

Auburn Police Chief: A "relief" to have Leonard in custody

Posted: Updated:
Desmonte Leonard. Source: Auburn Police Department Desmonte Leonard. Source: Auburn Police Department
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson speaks at the press conference. Source: WBRC video Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson speaks at the press conference. Source: WBRC video

The young man accused of killing three and injuring three other people has turned himself in to authorities.

Auburn Police confirmed at a press conference that Leonard turned himself in to U.S. Marshal Art Baylor at 7:57 p.m. Tuesday at the Montgomery Federal Courthouse.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson opened the conference by thanking the various law enforcement entities that helped in the manhunt, especially to the U.S. Marshals and Montgomery Police.

"This is probably the greatest effort I've ever seen among law enforcement. We're a family and when one of us is hurting, we're all hurting. When one community suffers, we all suffer," Dawson said.

Dawson said that Leonard is being held at the Montgomery County Jail and will be transferred to Lee County within the next few days. He also said there will be no bond for Leonard and the decision on where to hold him will be made at his initial court appearance.

Dawson also took time to address the victims' families.

"I know your young men won't be coming home. But hopefully this arrest will give you some closure…we're going to move forward. It's a new day tomorrow," he said.

Officials wouldn't address media questions about where Leonard was hiding or how he evaded police for nearly four days, citing the need to protect evidence in the case.

Susan James, a Montgomery defense attorney, was contacted through her law office by a member of Leonard's family and asked to help him turn himself in. She said she spoke with the family and then reached out to Marshal Baylor to determine how Leonard could be surrendered peacefully.

It does not appear at this time that James represents Leonard.

[VIDEO: WSFA's interview with Susan James]

There were snipers on the roof at the courthouse as James and Leonard entered as a safety precaution, according to James.

"We wanted to make sure they could get him into custody without someone trying to take him out," James said. "We asked for no media coverage. We walked in, then we stepped back, and they took him into custody without incident," James said.

As for Leonard's demeanor, James said he was "calm" and "very tired."

Leonard is charged with three counts of capital murder and two counts of first degree assault after allegedly shooting and killing Ladarious Phillips, 20, Edward Christian, 20, and Demario Pitts, 20. He is also accused of injuring John Robertson, 20, Xavier Moss, 19, and Eric Mack, 20. The shooting happened at the University Heights apartment complex late Saturday evening.

Authorities believed they had Leonard cornered Monday evening in an east Montgomery home, but after an hours-long search, it was determined that the suspect wasn't inside.

Two other men have been arrested in the course of this investigation for hindering prosecution and police believe their activity helped Leonard escape custody for days. Gabriel Thomas, 41, and Jeremy Thomas, 18, were taken into custody in Montgomery.

Auburn University President Jay Gogue released this statement concerning Leonard's arrest:

"We appreciate the dedication and commitment of the Auburn City Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. This is a difficult time for our campus and community. We're remembering those who lost their lives, and it's important that we pull together to help those who are grieving and recovering. We're offering counseling to students, and we've reached out to the families. I ask everyone to offer your thoughts, prayers and support to those who need it."

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson told WSFA on Wednesday that Leonard's arraignment will likely be set for 9 a.m. Thursday, June 14 at the Lee County Justice Center.

Stay tuned to MyFoxAl.com for more details as this story develops.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow