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Massive Manhunt for Shooter in Auburn Slayings

Auburn, Alabama – As authorities conduct a massive manhunt to capture the man allegedly responsible for murdering two Auburn University football players and one other man, and injuring two others—including one who was shot in the head—the dazed university community and indeed the entire nation is wondering how something so devastating could have resulted from something as mundane as an argument over a girl.

Police have accused a man named Desmonte Demontez Leonard, 22, of opening fire at a party near the Auburn campus on Saturday night. Leonard, who faces three counts of capital murder, is the subject of a hunt by federal marshals and Alabama police. Police have released an undated photo of Leonard.

The murdered players were Edward Christian (left), an offensive lineman from Lowndes High School in Georgia who had not been playing because of a back injury, and Ladarious Phillips, a former fullback who had quit the team, which won a national championship in 2010.  Demario Pitts, 20, who wasn’t an Auburn student, was also killed.

Wounded were Xavier Moss, Erick Mack, a current offensive lineman on the team who Coach Gene Chizik said will fully recover, and John Robertson, who was shot in the head and is reportedly clinging to life.

On, a website focusing on the state of Alabama, a report said Leonard had several previous charges on his record, including two arrests for gun charges and two lawsuits for child support payments by two different women. With one of the gun charges, Leonard was first charged with second-degree assault for shooting a 16-year-old with a 40-caliber handgun, but the charge was dropped to a gun charge after the victim swore Leonard didn’t shoot him. The other gun charge came in connection with a stolen car chase, which ended with Leonard telling police he had a gun in his pocket—and indeed police confiscated a Smith & Wesson 9 mm.

One of the witnesses at the party who was involved in the altercation, Turquorius Vines, 23, said he had never met the shooter. Vines said he and his friend, Demario Pitts, one of the men who was murdered, were approached by two other men who began arguing with them over a woman.

Vines said he punched one of the men, while Pitts hit both of the men over the head with a bottle. Either one or both of the two men then started shooting, he said. He said Pitts was shot and killed, while two others also were hit by gunfire.

The party “went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all,” Vines told the AJC. “It happened so quick, in about a second.”

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson stressed that the victims being college football players had nothing to do with the shooting.

“The only connection that the Auburn football team has to this is they are victims of a brutal shooting. Sometimes the young men get a bad rap, I feel like, but they are the victims today,” Dawson said.

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