Mayor, Chief: Arrest Provides Relief, Closure

Authorities have the man charged with the Auburn shootings in custody in Montgomery, ending a massive manhunt that has been going on since Saturday night.

Auburn, Ala.--The man charged with killing former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips, and one other person while wounding three others, is in custody after turning himself in to authorities Tuesday night at the federal courthouse in Montgomery.

Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson said that 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard was taken into custody in the lobby of the courthouse just before 8 p.m. after he turned himself into the U.S. Marshals and the FBI following negotiations to do that through his attorney.

Leonard has been on the run since the shootings on Saturday night at an off-campus apartment complex in Auburn and has been the subject of an intense manhunt involving a wide array of law enforcement agencies.

Asked if there is a sense of relief that the hunt for Leonard has ended, Auburn mayor Bill Ham said, "Oh, gosh. I would have to say I believe this community is relieved that we got the closure at this point.

"As the chief said there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done, but I just applaud them again for getting it done in such a rapid way. To me every day this drug on left a little more concern in the community. I am very appreciative."

Ham agreed with his police chief that the city of Auburn is thankful for the significant amount of support it received in the case from the city of Montgomery and other law enforcement agencies.

"I am very appreciative of the great work of Chief Dawson and the relationships he has with all of these other agencies--the FBI, the marshals, all of the folks. This not a very typical relationship that you have a rapport with all of these agencies and work so well together. I don't think every community in the country does that. The great work that the chief, and his department do, is exemplary."

The suspect turned himself in after pleas from Dawson and the suspect's mother to quit trying to evade arrest after being charged on three counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Dawson said he believes the suspect's mother played a role in Leonard surrendering to authorities.

"She seemed like an honest person and she told me she would do all she could to help get him in and I firmly believe she did," Dawson said.

Leonard is being held in Montgomery and is expected to be transported to Lee County later this week. Dawson said there will be no bail allowed for Leonard.

Speaking Tuesday at Auburn's city hall on Ross Street, Dawson said, "I want to speak directly to the families of all of our victims tonight. I want to tell you again I am sorry for what happened. You will continue to be in our prayers and our thoughts daily."

Dawson said the case isn't finished and that more investigation will need to be done, but he noted that he hoped the arrest of the suspect can provide some closure for those who lost loved ones in the shooting.

Dawson thanked U.S. Marshal Art Bailey and FBI agent Kelvin King for helping bring an end to the manhunt.

"Marshal Art Bailey was instrumental in Mr. Leonard turning himself in," Dawson stated. "His reputation in the Montgomery community is impeccable along with Chief (Kevin) Murphy. Montgomery PD worked this case like it was their own case. They spent numerous man hours and manpower. It makes me proud to be in law enforcement with the efforts this men put forward."

Dawson also thanked Leonard's attorney, Susan James of Montgomery, for helping in the process of getting Leonard to surrender to authorities.

Additionally, the Auburn police chief thanked the citizens of his city. "The community support has unbelievable over the past few days," he noted.

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Former Tiger players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips lost their lives in the shooting that happened Saturday night at an off-campus apartment complex. Current Tiger, offensive guard Eric Mack, suffered a gunshot wound, but was released from East Alabama Medical Center.

Mack is expected to make a recovery in time to challenge for a starting position this fall after playing as a backup in 2011 following a redshirt year in 2010.

Leonard has been charged with three counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Christian, an offensive lineman who was from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., had to give up football due to injuries. He was enrolled at Auburn as a student. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident shortly after police arrived after getting a call at 10:03 p.m. about gunshots at University Heights apartment complex on West Longleaf Drive off of South College Street.

Ladarious Phillips

Phillips left the team earlier this year prior to the start of spring practice and planned to transfer to Jacksonville State University in search of more playing time. The fullback played at Handley High in Roanoke where he was a standout on both offense and defense.

Dawson said the significant amount of media attention would have made it difficult for Leonard to avoid being caught in the manhunt. "If you guys didn't keep it out to the public, we probably wouldn't be here tonight," he said.

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