- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — After firing tear gas and searching with thermal imaging and tactical teams, authorities in Montgomery appeared to have left a home early Tuesday where they believed the man charged with fatally shooting three people near Auburn University might have been hiding.

Law enforcement swarmed the scene Monday afternoon and spent hours there as they searched for Desmonte Leonard. They hadn’t brought anyone out of the home by the time they held a briefing just after midnight.

And around 2:25 a.m. Tuesday, an Associated Press photographer on the scene saw law enforcement agents leave without comment. It wasn’t immediately clear why they left. There was no activity around the house.

Authorities came to the home after getting two reports from people who said Mr. Leonard was at the home, Martha Earnhardt, spokeswoman for Montgomery’s Public Safety Department, said Tuesday. One of those calls was from someone who told authorities they had dropped Mr. Leonard off there.

“Then a 911 call was made indicating Mr. Leonard was in that residence,” she said.

But with the “inch-by-inch” search of the house having failed to turn find Mr. Leonard, Ms. Earnhardt said, authorities are now investigating the reports themselves.

“We will vigorously pursue any individual who provides false or misleading information to law enforcement about Mr. Leonard,” Ms.  Earnhardt said.

Mr. Leonard is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night during a pool party at University Heights apartments. He’s also accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn football players.

While authorities were at the home Monday, authorities said they were going to scour the attic, air conditioning ducts and “every crevice” of the house until they were satisfied. They were drilling holes and tearing through pieces of the house. They vowed to repay the house’s owner or rebuild the structure.

Investigators said thermal imaging and other technology showed a person was in the attic area of the house and that they’d heard coughing and movement. But after midnight, they acknowledged that they hadn’t heard those noises for several hours.

Dozens of police cruisers, trucks, fire vehicles and vans surrounded the house, located in a middle-class area a few miles from Alabama’s Capitol.

Also on Monday, police said they had arrested two men accused of hindering the search.

Auburn police said Jeremy S. Thomas, 18, of Montgomery was charged with hindering prosecution after he fled the scene of the shooting with Mr. Leonard. Records show Mr. Thomas was free on bond at the time of the Auburn shootings while awaiting a manslaughter trial set to begin June 18 in last year’s shooting death of a teenager.

Montgomery police said Gabriel Thomas, 41, also was charged with hindering prosecution after having contact with Mr. Leonard after the shooting and providing false information to officers.

Police said it wasn’t known whether Jeremy Thomas and Gabriel Thomas are related. Officers also were looking for a third man described as a person of interest in the case, but it wasn’t clear why.

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