AUBURN - Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson, his face showing the wear of perhaps the most trying days of his career, vowed Tuesday morning that murder suspect Desmonte Leonard will be brought to justice
Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson
"We will continue to search for Mr. Leonard until he is apprehended," Dawson said. "We have not rested. We will not rest. We owe it to the victims of this horrible crime."
Leonard is accused of killing three people and wounding three others in a shooting at a party at University Heights Apartments in Auburn on Saturday night.
Former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and Auburn resident Demario Pitts were killed. Auburn football player Eric Mack spent the night at East Alabama Medical after being shot in the hip. John Robertson remains at UAB Hospital after being shot in the head. Xavier Moss was treated and released at EAMC.
Dozens of law enforcement officers descended on an East Montgomery home Monday night after two tips indicated Leonard was hiding there. Technological efforts, they believed, indicated was there. But after twice introducing tear gas into the house, Leonard was not found. Among those involved were the U.S. Marshal's Service, the FBI, the Montgomery Police Department, the Auburn Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.
Dawson bristled when a television reporter referred to the Montgomery operation as a "song and dance."
"When you are looking for the murderer of three young men, I don't think that's a song and dance," Dawson said. "I think that's a sad situation. I think Desmonte Leonard is still at large. I think three families are grieving this morning. One lady is suffering a lot at the hospital with her son, who was shot in the head. I can't call it a song and dance. I can call it law enforcement being dedicated and doing their job.
"I have rested very little since this thing happened. I'm not complaining, because I shouldn't rest. I swore an oath almost 25 years ago and I won't rest until this case is concluded. Neither will the Montgomery PD. So please, if you don't mind, let's don't call it a song and dance. Let's call it some dedicated men and women out their risking their lives to bring a murderer to justice."
Montgomery public safety director Chris Murphy said Tuesday that Leonard had "a connection" to the home and that law enforcement officials remain convinced he was there at one time.
Auburn University has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Leonard and the City of Montgomery has offered $5,000, Dawson said. That brings the total reward to $30,000.
Here are more highlights from Dawson's press conference:
On Monday night in Montgomery
"They did exactly as they should have done. They worked very hard, and I want to personally thank them for their efforts. They had a lot of manpower down there last night. Their mayor was out there, their director, their chief of police. That says something when a city the size of Montgomery gets that kind of response. I want to thank the people in that neighborhood who put up with everything they had to put up with. I hope that shows the families of the victims we are there for them and will continue to work hard."
On speaking with Leonard's mother
"I spoke with the mother of Mr. Leonard yesterday. I understand what she is going through this morning. She assured me if she could make contact with him she would do all he could to get him to turn himself in. If he's out there watching, I implore him to turn himself in. This has gone on long enough."
On response of law enforcement in Montgomery
"It touched me that they would care enough to do what they did last night. As a citizen of Central Alabama, I think it should be comforting to you get this kind of response from law enforcement. This kind of case is why you do law enforcement, to make a difference. Hopefully, we will make a difference.
"We've never been through anything like this in Auburn, Ala. We've never experienced this before. Auburn University has never experienced this before. This is a trying time for all of us. Hopefully, we never go through it again. This is not supposed to happen in Auburn. I've gotten so many calls from law enforcement throughout this state, throughout the country."
On whether he believes Leonard remains in Montgomery
"We have no reason to believe he is anywhere other than Montgomery. It doesn't matter where he is, and if he's watching I want him to realize this. We have the FBI on this case, the U.S. Marshals. We will find him and bring him back to Auburn, Ala."
On reports that police went to the wrong house
"That is not true. I seriously doubt they are telling that. No, they did not raid the wrong house. I think they'd do it again right now. If they get another call, they are going to respond exactly the same way, as would we.
"Let's not forget why we are looking for Desmonte Leonard. If we get a call he's in a house in Auburn, we are going to respond with our tactical unit. We are going to do everything we can to find him. We owe it to our citizens."