SWAT Team Leaves After Entering House Looking for Auburn Shooting Suspect

PHOTO: Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, Ala., the suspect wanted for fatally shooting three people, including two former Auburn University football players, and wounding another three people during a party at an apartment complex near the school, SundPlayAuburn Police Division/AP Photo
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U.S. Marshals have now left the premises after searching a house in Montgomery, Ala. where they believed the main suspected of shooting six and killing three people at an off-campus party near Auburn University was hiding out, sources say.

Desmonte Leonard, 22, allegedly pulled a gun during a pool party brawl and opened fire Saturday night. Two of the people killed were ex-Auburn footbal players, and a current player was among the wounded.

Leonard, who was wanted on three counts of capital murder, allegedly fled to Montgomery after the shooting.

An Associated Press photographer reported that around 2:25 a.m. Tuesday he saw all law enforcement agents leave the house without making any official comment. It was unclear why they had left the scene.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said police received two tips that someone who looked like Leonard was in the house, and they quickly surrounded the residence.

They fired tear gas into the home, but though they are sure there is someone in the house and they heard coughing and movement inside, no one came out.

After it became apparent that the tear gas would not get whoever was in the house to come out, a police SWAT team went in and police said they had gone up to the house's attic, where it was believed the man was hiding.

The U.S. Marshals replaced police in the attic, because of the advanced equipment they had, Strange said.

"We're going to get him," the mayor said.

Leonard is thin and 5 feet, 4 inches tall, so he could be hiding in very remote and difficult-to-access parts of the attic, he said.

Earlier Monday, Gabriel Thomas, 41, and Jeremy Thomas, 18, were both arrested and charged with hindering prosecution. Officials are not commenting on whether the two are related.

"[Gabriel] Thomas was charged after investigators developed information indicating he had contact with Leonard and provided misleading information in the search for Leonard," the Montgomery Police Department said in a statement.

He was arrested Sunday and the arrest was made public today. He is being held at the Montgomery County Detention Facility on a $15,000 bond.

Jeremy Thomas, who allegedly fled with Leonard the night of the shooting, was arrested this afternoon and is being questioned by detectives.

Rewards totaling $15,000 are being offered for information leading to Leonard's apprehension. The FBI is offering $10,000 of the reward and the U.S. Marshals Service is offering $5,000.

"[We'll] work together and pool all the resources and be absolutely relentless in the pursuit of this individual and that's exactly what we intend to do," said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

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

All six victims were younger than 21.

"This is a trying time, not only university students and athletes, but its young people. It's six young people that have been shot. As you can tell, the community is shaken by this and grieving today," Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said Sunday of the shooting, which he said "sickened" him.

The police chief said the only connection between the university football team and the Saturday shooting was that the players happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Sometimes, the young men get a bad rap, I feel like, but they are the victims today," Dawson said. "Them being football players really has nothing to do with this. They're victims of a shooting."

Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. said, "Auburn University alumni from across the country and throughout the state are shocked by what's happened. I want the family members to know that this community reaches out to them, that they are in our prayers and thoughts."

Phillips' mother, Jemecia Phillips, said her son, a 20-year-old fullback, had planned to transfer to Jackson State University, adding that she was proud of him.

"He was always helpful," she said.

Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik said he was saddened for the "entire Auburn family," but was "devastated" to learn that two of his players had been killed.

"Nobody should ever have to endure such unimaginable grief, and we will love and support the victims' families during this terribly difficult time," Chizik said.

The university and its athletic director released statements of grief and condolences to the victims' families and friends. University officials are in "constant contact" with authorities to assist as needed, according to a statement.

Turquorius Vines, 23, told The Associated Press he was at the pool party when he and his friends began arguing over a woman with two men they'd never seen before.

Vines punched one of the strangers and his friend hit them over the head with a bottle. That was when the strangers -- either one or both of them -- began shooting.

His friend died at the scene, he said. He told The Associated Press that losing his friend was like losing a lung.

"I don't know how I'm going to survive this," he said.