Auburn Shootings: Desmonte Leonard Surrenders

Alleged triple murderer Desmonte Leonard reportedly turned himself in.

June 12, 2012, 2:04 PM

June 12, 2012 — -- The man suspected of a triple murder near Auburn University over the weekend has surrendered to federal agents in the lobby of a U.S. courthouse in Montgomery, Ala.

Desmonte Leonard, 22, turned himself in tonight to the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service at 7:57 p.m., Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said.

"You can't run but so long," Dawson told reporters this evening. "It's a psychological thing. We were going to pursue until we caught him."

Attorney Susan James told the Associated Press that Leonard's family had reached out to her about the surrender and she arranged for it to take place at the courthouse.

"He was very calm, very tired and very ready to get this over with, and very respectful," James told the AP, adding that the Leonard family has not formally retained her.

Leonard faces three counts of capital murder and assault charges and is being held at the Montgomery County Jail, Dawson said. He likely will be transferred back to Auburn in coming days.

Investigators from local, national and federal levels had been searching for Leonard around the clock since he allegedly opened fire at a party near Auburn University on Saturday night, killing three people and wounding three others.

The manhunt initially proved fruitless and maddening for the officials, though they suspected he was in Montgomery, where they believed he fled after the shooting.

Two former Auburn football players, Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian, and another man identified as Demario Pitts, died in the shooting.

Auburn football players Eric Mack, Xavier Moss and John Robertson were wounded, Dawson told reporters earlier.

Robertson was undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the head and "fighting for his life," Dawson added.

All six victims were younger than 21 and police have said that the men were not targeted for being football players, but were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

After the arrest, Dawson apologized repeatedly to the families and the Auburn community.

"I know your young men won't be coming home, but hopefully this arrest will give you some closure," he said.

"In some sense, in a case like this, there's no relief because those boys aren't coming home tonight," he added. "At the same time, Mr. Leonard's got a mama. And I'm sure she's grieving some."

The search seemed to be coming to an end on Monday night when a woman said she walked into a house and saw a man believed to be Leonard sitting on the couch. She called 911 and dozens of officers responded to the scene.

The house was tear-gassed and police technology seemed to indicate some movement in the house, but when a SWAT team finally entered the home, Leonard was gone.

"We would not have put the resources out there if we did not fully believe he was there. Once we got there, we fully believed he was still there," Montgomery Director of Public Safety Chris Murphy said at a news conference today.

Authorities said there was a gap of between 15 and 20 minutes from when the 911 call was placed to when officers arrived.

Police said they believe Leonard does have a connection to the house, but not with the woman who claimed to have seen him there. Police would not specify the connection, but said it was not a family member's home.

"It's hard for us to discern exactly when he left and exactly when we arrived," Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy said at the news conference. "It's very close."

The house search was not the first time this week investigators hit a dead end.

Earlier this week, Gabriel Thomas, 41, and Jeremy Thomas, 18, were arrested and charged with hindering prosecution in the search for Leonard.

Gabriel Thomas allegedly had contact with Leonard and then provided misleading information in the search, according to police. And Jeremy Thomas allegedly fled with Leonard the night of the shooting. Police would not comment on whether the two men are related.

"We also want to emphasize that if you call any of these law enforcement and give deliberate false information to send us in a direction away from capturing this suspect -- we've already taken out two warrants and we'll take out as many as necessary," Murphy said.

Police are looking for the person who reported dropping off Leonard at the house in Montgomery. Authorities said they know who the man is, but would not release any more information about him or his possible involvement in the matter.

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