Funeral Held for Slain Football Star Ed Christian Jr.

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[UPDATE] -- June 16, 2012 --

Family and Friends remembered Edward Christian Junior today 6/16 in Valdosta. The funeral for the former Lowndes High School football star was held at 1PM at the Mathis Auditorium.

Darious Howell played football with Christian at Lowndes High School. He said "I'll always remember him as the loving kind individual that he was. He'll always be my friend whether he's here or not. You know and I just think about him everyday really."

Christian was known in this community for being a kind and honest man. He was also unstoppable on the football field as an offensive lineman. His former teammates recalled the intensity with which he played.

Howell remembered an experience with Christian on the field. He said "the quarterback threw an interception so I ran the guy down and by the time I could get to him, big Ed had already got to him. He hit the guy so hard that I still have the bone bruise right here on my hip. He hit the guy and the guy hit me."

The funerals for the other men that died, Demario Pitts and Ladarious Phillips, were both held on Friday at 1PM. Like the other victims, Christian's funeral was packed with those that knew him and loved him.

22-year old Desmonte Leonard is the accused triggerman. He's charged with three counts of capital murder and two counts of assualt.

June 15, 2012 - 3:50PM -

The family of a local man who was killed along with two others in Auburn has released a statement.

Ed Christian was killed near Auburn University on Saturday night. His family reached out to us through a close friend who has known them for 30 years.

Lieutenant Ron Dillard of the Thomas County Sheriff's Office grew up with Ed Christian's dad, Ed Senior. They played football together and worked together. He was authorized to speak on behalf of the Christian family about the deadly shooting that claimed the lives of Christian as well as Demario Pitts and Ladarious Phillips.

He said "the family does wish for the community to know that Edward Christian did not die in vain. He was simply breaking up a fight between one of his ex-teammates and a local subject who resided there in Alabama in Auburn."

That local is 22-year old Desmonte Leonard who now faces three counts of capital murder and two counts of assault. Lieutenant Dillard went on to say "to all law enforcement officials who helped capture the subject, the family wants to say thank you. Words can't express what they're feeling right now and what they're going through."

The Christian family did have one request which Lt. Dillard mentioned. He said "while the family does appreciate all the concerns that have been given to them this week, they would prefer that the media please give them some time to have the services by themselves. This will be the only statement given."

The funeral arrangements for all the victims in the shooting are below.

Ladarious Phillips funeral was held at 1PM on Friday at the Handley High School gymnasium in Roanoke.

Services for Demario Pitts were held at 1PM on Friday at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Loachapoka.

Services for Ed Christian will take place at 1PM Saturday at J.E. Mathis Municipal Auditorium in Valdosta, Ga.


Official: Auburn killing suspect has been caught
by Jay Reeves, AP

Montgomery, AL (AP) - A law enforcement official says that police have arrested a man accused of killing three people near Auburn University over the weekend.

The official says that Desmonte Leonard was arrested Tuesday in Montgomery. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to release the information ahead of a news conference in the case scheduled for Tuesday night.

Leonard is wanted for killing three people and wounding three at a party near Auburn University on Saturday.

Police surrounded a house in Montgomery Monday afternoon and spent hours scouring it only to realize that the suspect wasn't inside.

Working off two solid tips, police thought they had cornered the man accused of killing three people during a party near Auburn University. They swarmed a home with tear gas, spy gear and assault rifles, but after a tense, nine-hour search, they discovered Desmonte Leonard had fled by the time they arrived.

Investigators continued Tuesday to search for Leonard and a man they said dropped him off at the suburban Montgomery home and then called U.S. marshals. It was that tip, and another 911 call from a woman who said she walked in from work to find the alleged gunman on her sofa, that led authorities to the neighborhood. At one point, they believed they heard movement and coughing in the attic, but their search turned up nothing.

Two men already have been charged with misleading authorities during their search for Leonard, and Police Chief Kevin Murphy said the man who ferried Leonard to the home could be arrested on similar charges.

"We did everything right," said Murphy. "Obviously we didn't take Mr. Leonard into custody yet. But we will."

Leonard, 22, is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night after a fight over a woman. He is accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn football players, and a current player was among the injured.

"I've got a team of 120-some-odd players right now that are really just trying to navigate what is a lot of questions that aren't answered," Auburn football coach Gene Chizik said. "We're trying to do that as a coaching staff and I think the entire Auburn community is trying to do the same thing."

With calls about Leonard's whereabouts in the house going to both federal marshals and local police, authorities had to coordinate their actions before swooping in.

"There is some 15 to 20 minutes between the calling and us getting to the front door," said Mayor Todd Strange. "When I say `us,' U.S. marshals, any of those assets."

Leonard had a connection to the house through someone other than the owner, said the city's public safety director, Chris Murphy. He declined to elaborate. The woman is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson vowed that authorities will not rest until he is custody. He said the reward for Leonard's capture had been bumped up to $30,000 and that state and federal authorities will continue their search.

Dawson said Montgomery authorities received credible tips that Leonard was inside the house.

"We will do it again if we have to," Dawson said. "We will respond in the same way."

Dawson said he has spoken with Leonard's mother, who has not heard from her son since the shootings. He said she has left messages for her son, asking him to turn himself in to police.

The search that began in the Montgomery neighborhood during afternoon rush hour Monday ended early Tuesday.

Believing Leonard was hiding in the attic, officers fired tear gas into the rafters and poked through insulation. Investigators said thermal imaging and other technology showed a person was in the attic area and they had heard coughing and movement.

But after midnight, they acknowledged they hadn't heard those noises for several hours. Officials said officers found nothing in the attic - not even an animal that might have fooled detection devices.

After police left, at least two holes were visible in the ceiling and the floor was littered with pieces of drywall and insulation. Scraps of insulation also littered the walkway outside the house. Officials promised to repay the house's owner for the damage.


AP writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report from Auburn.


New Details: Former Lowndes H.S. Student Among Dead in Shooting

[UPDATE] -- Valdosta, Ga. -- June 12, 2012 -- Noon --

Eyewitness News has new details on the murder of a former Lowndes High School football player. Police in Montgomery surrounded a house where they believed the suspected shooter was hiding in the attic, but they left without explanation early this morning. Police still do not have the suspect in custody.

Law enforcement swarmed the scene Monday afternoon, firing tear gas and sending a tactical team inside the home as they searched for Desmonte Leonard, but just before 2:30am on June 12th, all law enforcement agents that had been there left without comment. It wasn't immediately clear why they left. They had believed the suspect was hiding in the attic.

Authorities say Leonard is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night during a pool party in Auburn. He's also accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn football players.

20-year-old Ed Christian was one of three people shot and killed on Saturday night. He was a former Offensive lineman for the Lowndes High School football team.

We've confirmed with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office that his father is a deputy there. The entire office is sharing in the grief with his family. We've learned that a memorial service will be held at Mathis Auditorium. A date has not been set for the service. Christian's burial will be in Boston, Georgia. Christian was 1 of 3 young men gunned down at a pool party near Auburn University's campus. Desmonte Leonard is wanted for the murders and is believed to be armed and dangerous.

Stay with WCTV for updates

[UPDATE] -- Valdosta, Ga. -- June 10, 2012 -- 6:30PM --

A shooting in Auburn Alabama has led to the death of a former Lowndes High School student.

Edward Christian, 20, was shot and killed in Auburn Alabama on Saturday around 10PM. Eyewitness News reporter Eames Yates spoke with people who worked at Lowndes High School while he was there... His death comes as a shock to them all.

Ed Christian was a former football standout at Lowndes High School.

He was one of 3 young men gunned down on Saturday night. 3 others were injured. Witnesses say the men were at a pool party at an apartment complex near Auburn University's campus. They allegedly got into a confrontation over a woman which led to the shooting.

One former Lowndes High School teacher, Patti Cook, spoke about the impact Christian had on Lowndes High.

She said "I know that he was very well respected and well loved the by students and the faculty there. And I now teach at VSU and your always wondering, you know, how safe are you? Especially the students that go there. And it's just, it's just really tragic."

Dexter Holiday graduated in the same class as Christian and would pass by him in the hallway. He said "knowing how he was successful he could have went pretty far. And I wouldn't wish for anyone to have that taken away from them."

Auburn Police have identified 22 year old Desmonte Leonard as the suspected shooter. 3 warrants have been issued for his arrest and he is believed to be armed and dangerous.


-- Valdosta, Ga. -- June 10, 2012 --

Edward Christian was shot and killed at an apartment complex last night in Auburn, Alabama. He was a former offensive lineman at Lowndes High School who signed to play football at Auburn in February of 2010.

More details to come tonight at 6PM on WCTV.