Police: Arrest in shooting death of Auburn player
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - A 22-year-old man has been arrested on a felony warrant charging him with murder in Sunday's fatal shooting of Auburn football player Jakell Lenard Mitchell, police said. The shooting took place at the same off-campus apartment complex where two former football players and a third man were slain in 2012.
Auburn Police said at least 14 hours after the early morning shooting that Markale Deandra Hart of Camp Hill, Alabama, had been taken into custody. Police Capt. Will Matthews also said in an emailed statement that Hart was being held at a county jail and no additional arrests were anticipated.
It was not immediately known if Hart had an attorney and the statement didn't provide details of how he was taken into custody.
Police also disclosed new details that the 18-year-old freshman Mitchell had received multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. No one else was reported shot or hurt, police have said.
Matthews had said hours earlier that police answered a call about 12:25 a.m. Sunday of shots fired at the Tiger Lodge apartment complex, a few miles from the Auburn campus. He said Mitchell was taken to a hospital in nearby Opelika, Alabama, where he was pronounced dead.
Auburn University team coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday he was "devastated and saddened" by the death of the promising player, a halfback described by the team website as versatile on offense with blocking, catching and running skills.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Jakell's family and friends, who are suffering through this senseless tragedy. I know the Auburn Family is hurting, especially our players and coaches, and we are going to love and support them through this difficult time," he said in a statement. "We have lost a member of our family too young, too soon."
Mitchell redshirted this season for the Auburn Tigers out of nearby Opelika High School. Able to play both back and tight end, he was expected to contend for a starting spot next season, reports indicated. Mitchell missed his senior season at Opelika as he recovered from an ACL injury. He had rushed for 392 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013 as a high school junior.
The gated apartment complex was quiet Sunday, with large amounts of broken glass in the parking lot and blue spray paint on the ground where police marked possible evidence. Police looked Sunday morning on as a red car bearing the license plate "Jakell" was towed away.
Police have released few details of exactly what happened, but residents described hearing gunfire and screams.
Drake Ledet, an Auburn sophomore living in an apartment near the shooting scene, told AP he heard several gunshots after midnight.
"I'd say it was at least eight (shots)," Ledet said, adding he looked outside to see what was happening. "People were screaming ... I saw people scattering everywhere, getting in their cars."
Ledet and other residents said there were two parties going on Saturday night at the complex. Students had just completed their final exams on Friday and winter graduation ceremonies were held Saturday.
Jeremy Johnson, Auburn's backup quarterback, was one of those who drove up before midday Sunday to quietly see the site and remember Mitchell. Johnson said he wasn't present at the time of the shooting, but wanted to come by after learning of his teammate's death.
"I couldn't believe it," Johnson said, growing emotional. "Jakell was a real good kid."
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs called the shooting a "terrible tragedy" in a statement.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jakell Mitchell's family and those who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy. This is a very trying time for those close to Jakell, including the student-athletes, coaches, staff and Auburn Family. We will provide counseling and support and do everything we can to help them through the grieving process," he said.
The apartment complex is the same where authorities say Desmonte Leonard killed three men at a party in the summer of 2012. The complex, a few miles from campus, is popular with students. Its name was changed following the 2012 shooting.
Jurors convicted Leonard of capital murder in the shooting deaths of former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips along with DeMario Pitts. Three other people were wounded.
Leonard's attorney said that 2012 shooting stemmed from a fight and that Leonard fired in self-defense. Prosecutors argued that Leonard aimed at the victims and wasn't involved in the initial fight.
Leonard will be sentenced on Jan. 20. The jury recommended life without parole, but the judge could still sentence him to death.
At least one Tiger Lodge resident said Sunday he wanted to move from the complex.
"There have been four people killed here. Once again this place is on the national news," said junior Barrett Kearens.