A manhunt continued Tuesday for a triple murder suspect after a small
army of law enforcement officers swarmed a Montgomery home where he was
believed to be hiding and came up empty-handed.
Police surrounded and searched the house for more than six hours, spraying "a powerful dose" of tear gas in hopes of flushing out the man accused of killing three people and wounding three others at nearby Auburn University.
They scaled down their
efforts at the house Tuesday after they could not find Desmonte Leonard,
22, who is wanted on three counts of capital murder.
The officers from local, state and federal agencies looked frustrated, CNN affiliate WFSA reported.
Police defended the raid
at a news conference Tuesday after reports surfaced that they had gone
to the wrong house and used excessive force.
Montgomery Police Chief
Kevin Murphy said he had every reason to believe Leonard had once been
in the attic. Police called on him to come out. They did not get a
response, although they heard coughing and detected movement in the
By the time they launched a raid on the house, the suspect was gone.
"We didn't go into that
house foot by foot. We took it inch by inch," Murphy said. "We didn't
want anybody else to get hurt. We did everything right."
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson implored Leonard to turn himself in.
"This has gone on long
enough," he said. "We're going to apprehend him, sooner or later. When
you're looking for the murderer of three young men, I don't think it's a
song and dance."
Police received three
calls about Leonard being in the area; the third was from a woman who
owned the house. She said she returned from work to find a man who
looked like the suspect sitting on her couch, said Montgomery Mayor
She then ran out to her car and called police, he said.
Saturday night's shootings
took place at an off-campus apartment complex in Auburn, about 50 miles
east of Montgomery. The dead included two former Auburn football
players. A current football player was among the wounded.
"This has been an
incredibly difficult 72 hours," Gene Chizik, Auburn's head football
coach, told reporters Tuesday. "The whole Auburn family is devastated."
"We've got a road ahead of us right now, and it's a long road of grieving," he said.
Dawson said he had
spoken with Leonard's mother, who assured him she would do all she could
to ensure that her son turns himself in. Police have posted a $30,000
reward for information on his whereabouts.
Leonard has been the
target of an intense manhunt for two days, and two other men have been
jailed on charges of hindering prosecution in the case.
Auburn police said one
of those arrested, Jeremy Thomas, 18, left the scene of the shootings
with Leonard. Montgomery police say Gabriel Thomas, 41, tried to mislead
investigators during the search, and they arrested him Sunday at the
request of U.S. marshals.
Police did not
immediately disclose the relationship, if any, between the two men. Both
were arrested in Montgomery, but Jeremy Thomas was expected to be
transferred to a jail in Lee County, which includes Auburn, police said.
Officers received a call
reporting the shooting at the University Heights apartments clubhouse
about 10:03 p.m. Saturday, Dawson said Sunday.
Arriving officers found Edward Christian, 20, dead at the scene.
Christian, of Valdosta,
Georgia, was off the football team because of an injury, Dawson said.
Former player Ladarious Phillips, 20, and Auburn resident Demario Pitts,
20, died later at a hospital, he said.
Two others, including
current Auburn sophomore offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, of Cameron,
South Carolina, were taken to East Alabama Medical Center in the nearby
town of Opelika.
Mack was released from
the medical center Sunday morning, while another man, Xavier Moss, 19,
was treated and released from the same facility.
A third man, John
Robertson, 20, was transferred to the University of Alabama at
Birmingham Hospital, where he was in critical condition after being shot
in the head.
Leonard and two other
men were thought to have fled the scene in a white Chevrolet Caprice,
authorities said. Police later found the car abandoned in an adjacent
county, Dawson said.
Police have a motive in
the shooting, but Dawson would not release it, saying "that's for the
courtroom, later on." He did say authorities believe gunfire erupted
during a fight at a party.
Several media outlets cited witnesses as saying the altercation was over a woman.
Witness Turquorius Vines told affiliate WGCL the violence was sudden.
"It went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all," he said.
"I heard what appeared
to be six or seven gunshots outside my apartment," resident Nate Conoly
told affiliate ABC 33/40. He said he couldn't see anything when he
peered outside his window, but heard screaming. "... I went back into my
apartment and locked the door," he said.
A woman identifying
herself as only Leonard's grandmother answered the telephone Sunday at
an address listed as his in court records, the Montgomery Advertiser
"I'm just very surprised
by all of this," she told the newspaper. "This is not the grandson I
know, I can tell you that. I've just been sitting here, can't hardly
move, I'm so in shock by it. It just doesn't seem real."