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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 06/11/2012

Auburn shooting: Search for gunman continues as community mourns


A police officer guards the scene of a multiple shooting at University Heights in Auburn, Ala., on Sunday (MARVIN GENTRY / Reuters)

Local, state and federal authorities in Auburn, Ala., continue to search for a gunman who shot six people when a fight broke out at a party over the weekend, killing three and critically wounding another man. And, as they do so, the community and university are struggling to come to grips with the violence.

Desmonte Leonard, a 22-year-old Montgomery man who allegedly pulled a gun during a dispute at a party near the Auburn University campus, is wanted on three capital murder charges.

Two of the dead men were former Auburn players; Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips were killed, as well as Auburn resident DeMario Pitts. Another victim, John Robertson, was “fighting for his life,” Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson said Sunday.

Eric Mack, an offensive lineman for the Tigers, was wounded near his hip and released Sunday afternoon from a hospital. Another man, Xavier Moss, was treated and released after the shooting.

“Auburn University, and them being football players, really have nothing to do with this case,” Dawson said, via al.com, Sunday. “They are victims of a shooting, and I owe it to their parents to point that out. The young men were having a party, and they, unfortunately, were shot. That's nothing to their character. ... It's not just about the Auburn football players. It's about the other young men who have been injured.”

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik met with players Sunday night and offered grief counseling. “This is a sad, sad day for everyone associated with the entire Auburn family,” Chizik said in a statement released by the school. On Sunday night, he met with players and said the school was offering counseling. “I am devastated by the passing of three young men, including two that I personally knew.

“My thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of the victims involved in this tragic incident. Nobody should ever have to endure such unimaginable grief.”

Phillips, who played at Handley High in Roanoke, Ala., carried great expectations to Auburn. “When he signed at Auburn, I expected him to set the world on fire and possibly play at the next level,” Mike Battles, his high school coach, told al.com. “Now his life is cut short by some idiot with a gun. It's just not right.”

Turquorius Vines, a 23-year-old who is not an Auburn student, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was attending a party with friends and former Auburn football players at a University Heights apartment complex a couple of miles from campus shortly before the shooting. “It was about a female,” Vines said. “It started from a female. We were trying to get away from the trouble and it ended up right in our face.”

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By  |  11:30 AM ET, 06/11/2012

 
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