MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Montgomery authorities today stood by their decision to surround and conduct an evening-long search Monday of a home in east Montgomery in the effort to find Desmonte Leonard, charged with three counts of capital murder following the shooting of six people at an Auburn apartment complex.
"If that same set of circumstances happens tonight, we'll do the exact same thing," Mayor Todd Strange said at a press conference recapping the dramatic effort that had dozens of law enforcement officers including Montgomery police and U.S. Marshal's Service personnel on the site.
But in the end, nothing was found in the attic that became the focal point of the search of the home on Ridgeside Boulevard, authorities said.
Police Chief Kevin Murphy, who said the decisions of the evening were his, said the primary consideration was to avoid putting anyone in harm's way. "We went in not foot by foot but inch by inch," he said. Authorities said throughout the episode that time was on their side. Three capital murder charges were issued for Leonard, 22, on Sunday related to the Saturday night attacks at a party.
A "variety of information, from a variety of law enforcement officers" employing a variety of technology fueled the decisions on site, the chief said. Three technological tools indicated there was something in the attic - causing the last several hours of the search to concentrate to a slow and methodical emphasis there, authorities said. Crews finally left the home about 2:30 a.m. The first officers approached the house on the cul-de-sac between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Strange described the series of events that caused authorities to target the house:
Law enforcement had been alerted to activity in the area and had begun watching the general neighborhood closely for a day prior to the search. Monday afternoon the U.S. Marshal Service received a call from a person saying that person had dropped Leonard at "a specific address."
Nearly simultaneously, Montgomery police 9-1-1 got a call from a female who said she had come home from work and found a man on her couch she believed was Leonard, Strange said. She immediately called police from her car.
The head of the Marshal Service fugitive task force went into into the house and called out for whoever was inside to surrender. Strange said several individuals in the team to first make entry heard what they thought were sounds coming from the attic.
"Predicated on that body of fact," Strange said, further resources, including tear gas, were deployed and the rest of the evening unfolded.
At a separate press conference in Auburn earlier today, Police Chief Tommy Dawson said he is among those convinced that Leonard is still in Montgomery. He bristled at any suggestion that any portion of Monday night's search effort in Montgomery was not well-considered.
"Let's not forget why we're trying to locate him. He's taken three kids from their families. Let's remember these families and keep them in our prayers," Dawson said.
murphy strange.jpgView full size Montgomery Director of Public Safety Chris Murphy, left, and Mayor Todd Strange addressed media at scene of house search Ridgeside Boulevard. (AP Photos/Dave Martin)
Strange said despite whatever second-guessing may occur today, "We will not be diverted." He and police stressed anyone providing false leads will be prosecuted. And significant resources -- including even during last night's search -- are being spent following down other leads.
Authorities noted the total rewards in the case now total $30,000 for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Auburn shootings.