Suspect in U.S. football party shooting surrenders
A man suspected of gunning down three people, including two former US college football players, in a fight over a girl at a pool party has surrendered to police after a three-day manhunt.
Desmonte Leonard, 22, has been charged with three counts of capital murder and two counts of first-degree assault over the shooting at a party near Auburn University, a college football powerhouse, authorities said late Tuesday.
“It’s a relief that we have him in custody and we can wrap up the loose ends and proceed,” Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said.
“But in some sense, there’s really — in a case like this — no relief, because those boys aren’t coming home tonight.”
Dawson said Leonard turned himself in peacefully at a federal courthouse in Montgomery after contacting Susan James, a well-known defense attorney.
The arrest followed an hours-long standoff Monday night at a house in suburban Montgomery, near Auburn, where police believed Leonard was hiding in the attic and tried to flush him out with tear gas.
The attic later proved to be empty, and officials later said they may have missed Leonard by a matter of minutes.
“We would not have put the resources out there if we did not fully believe he was there,” Chris Murphy, Montgomery’s public safety director, told reporters.
“And once we got there, we fully believed he was still there.”
The three victims in the incident in the southern US state were identified as Ed Christian, Ladarious Phillips and Demario Pitts, all 20 years old.
Christian and Phillips were former players at Auburn. Current Auburn player Eric Mack was among three others wounded in the shooting.
The off-campus shooting at a party in the University Heights apartment complex late Saturday came as colleges across the United States were ending classes ahead of summer break.
One witness, Turquorius Vines, told police he and Pitts were approached by two unknown men who started arguing with them over a woman.
Vines, 23, said he punched one of the men, while Pitts hit both of them over the head with a bottle before one or both of the strangers began shooting.
“It started from a female. We were trying to get away from the trouble and it ended up right in our face,” Vines told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.
The party, Vines said, “went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all… It happened so quick, in about a second.”