Two players from the Auburn football team were killed on Saturday night during a shooting that took place at an apartment complex close to the school’s campus. A current player is still in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. The two former players killed were among three killed in the shooting that also injured three more people. The Tigers’ fullback from last season, Ladarious Phillips, and former lineman Ed Christian, a redshirt freshman, were killed during the shooting. The gunman opened fire when a fight broke out at the University Heights apartment complex between 10 and 11 p.m. according to Eric Mack, a sophomore lineman who suffered a gunshot wound, said Phillips died at the complex. Mack was treated and released from the hospital.
“This is a trying time, not only for university students and athletes, but its young people,” Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said. “It’s six young people that have been shot. As you can tell, the community is shaken by this and grieving today.”
The suspect has been identified as Desmonte Leonard, 22, from Montgomery, Alabama. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were hunting for Leonard as of Monday afternoon. A warrant for Leonard’s arrest was issued for three counts of capital murder. Leonard left the shooting scene in a white Chevrolet that was abandoned while traveling back to Montgomery. Leonard has a history of weapons, theft and assault charges in Montgomery. He was charged with theft and carrying a weapon without a license or permit back in 2008. He was charged with second-degree assault in 2009.
Head football coach Gene Chizik released a statement following the shooting.
“I am devastated by the passing of three young men, including two that I personally knew in Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and my heart goes out to their families,” Chizik said in a statement.
Also killed in the shooting was Demario Pitts, 20, of Auburn.
The other shooting victims were identified by Dawson as John Robinson and Xavier Moss. Dawson said Robinson was still ‘fighting for his life’ after he was shot in his head. Moss was treated and then released. Dawson told the media that there was no tie between Leonard and Auburn athletics.
“The only connections Auburn football players have in this are they are the victims of a brutal shooting,” he said.
Sunday was described as a ‘tragic day for the entire Auburn community’ by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. “First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families who have been devastated by this senseless tragedy,” Jacobs said a statement. “We will support the families of the victims in the difficult days ahead in every way that we possibly can. Our student-athletes are obviously stunned and deeply saddened, and we are providing counseling and support for them as they grieve the loss of their teammates and friends.”
Witnesses have told police that the shooting occurred because of a fight over a woman at a pool party in the apartment complex.
“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. “We have a lot of people on our football team that are hurting right now and we’re going to do everything we can to help them get through this.”