3 killed in shooting near US university

2012-06-10 21:35
Auburn police investigate a shooting at the University Heights apartment complex on West Longleaf Drive in Auburn, Alabama. (Frank Couch, AP Photo/The Birmingham News)

Auburn police investigate a shooting at the University Heights apartment complex on West Longleaf Drive in Auburn, Alabama. (Frank Couch, AP Photo/The Birmingham News) (Frank Couch)

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Auburn - A gunman opened fire during a fight at a party at an apartment complex near Auburn University, killing three people, including two former football players for the school's team, authorities said on Sunday. Three other people were injured, with one in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said during a news conference that current football player Eric Mack was among those wounded and was being treated at a hospital. Authorities were searching for the accused shooter, who has been charged with capital murder.

Slain were Edward Christian, who had not been playing because of a back injury, and Ladarious Phillips, who had previously quit playing football. The other person killed was 20-year-old Demario Pitts.

Officials also said Xavier Moss and John Robertson were wounded. Robertson had been shot in the head and was in critical condition; Moss was released from the hospital.

Dawson stressed that the football team was connected to the shooting only because current and former players were victims.

"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.

Police say Desmonte Leonard has been charged with capital murder and has not yet been captured. Dawson urged Leonard to turn himself in and also said authorities were searching for two other persons of interest.

Turquorius Vines, 23, said he was at the pool party on Saturday evening at the University Heights apartments with one of his friend, Pitts. He said he and his friend were approached by two other men who started 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 his friend was shot and killed, while two others also were hit by gunfire. Vines said he had never before seen the men whom he had been arguing with.

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"It's like I lost a lung," Vines said of his friend. "I don't know how I'm going to survive this."

Several emergency vehicles had converged overnight around the University Heights apartment complex where reports indicated a number of students who attend Auburn University typically reside. The building was swathed in yellow police tape.

Five uniformed officers guarded the crime scene, which was sealed off with crime scene tape, and a handful of crime scene investigators were at work.

Mack, the wounded player, is a junior offensive lineman from St Matthews, South Carolina. He played in five games last season. Coach Gene Chizik said Mack was expected to make a full recovery.

Christian is an offensive lineman who was out last season while dealing with a back injury. Phillips was a backup fullback. Chizik said in April that Phillips had decided to give up football.

The Auburn Tigers is one of the country's leading college football teams and won the national championship in 2010.

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