Two former Auburn football players, offensive lineman Ed Christian and running back Ladarious Phillips, were killed Saturday night at an off-campus pool party, victims of a mass shooting following a reported argument over a woman. Both were 20 years old. AU offensive lineman Eric Mack sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
In a Sunday afternoon press conference, Auburn police chief Tommy Dawson stated that any association between the shooting and the football program was entirely coincidental: "The only connection that the Auburn football team has to this is they are victims of a brutal shooting."
Suspected shooter Desmonte Leonard of Montgomery has not been located by the police at the time of this writing. The FBI and U.S. Marshals are offering a combined $15,000 in rewards for information leading to Leonard's capture and conviction.
Mack has been released from the hospital following treatment for his injury and is expected to make a complete recovery. He told the Orangeburg SC Times and Democrat he wasn't even aware he'd been wounded at first:
“I just wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” Mack recalled in a phone interview late Sunday night from Auburn, Ala. “I wasn’t even worried about myself. When I first found out I got shot, I didn’t even really realize it. I was still walking around checking on my teammates making sure they were all right.”
Coach Gene Chizik released the following statement Sunday afternoon: "This is a sad, sad day for everyone associated with the entire Auburn family. I am devastated by the passing of three young men, including two that I personally knew in Ed Christian and LaDarius Phillips and my heart goes out to their families. My thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of the victims involved in this tragic incident. Nobody should ever have to endure such unimaginable grief, and we will love and support the victims' families during this terribly difficult time. 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. We are relieved that Eric Mack, who was also a victim in this incident, is expected to make a full recovery. This is a very trying time for everyone involved, and I would just ask that you lift up the victims and their families in your prayers." We don't live far from Auburn, and we know life there ambles by at a relaxed pace, especially at this time of year, with the school's population depleted for the break. In speaking with friends and neighbors who are Auburn alumni, not one failed to mention fond memories of stepping out for a summer evening, leaving doors unlocked without a second thought. That "wrong place, wrong time" can encompass a private swimming pool in a college town on a Saturday night is monstrously unfair. Our heartfelt condolences to the families of Phillips and Christian, and our sincere best wishes to Mack for a complete and rapid recovery.