AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football player Jakell Lenard Mitchell was fatally shot early Sunday at an off-campus apartment complex where two former football players and another person were killed in a shooting in 2012, police and reports said.
Auburn Police Capt. Will Matthews said police answered a call at 12:25 a.m. of shots fired at the Tiger Lodge apartment complex, where the 18-year-old freshman player was found.
Matthews said an investigation is ongoing and that no suspects have been taken into custody in the immediate hours after the shooting. He declined to release further details.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday he was “devastated and saddened” by Mitchell’s death.
“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. We have lost a member of our family too young, too soon,” Malzahn’s statement added.
The apartment complex was quiet Sunday, with large amounts of broken glass on the ground. Police had spraypainted the ground in spots, apparently marking the scene, and a red car with the license plate “Jakell” was seen being towed away Sunday morning.
Mitchell redshirted this season for the Auburn Tigers out of nearby Opelika High School. Able to play 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.
Drake Ledet, an Auburn sophomore living in a building near the complex, told AP he heard several gunshots shortly after midnight. He said there were two parties going on in the area hours earlier.
“I’d say it was at least eight [shots],” Ledet said, adding he looked out his window. “People were screaming … I saw people scattering everywhere, getting in their cars.”
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.
Jeremy Johnson, a 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.”
Sunday’s shooting happened at the same apartment complex where authorities say Desmonte Leonard killed three men at a party in the summer of 2012. The complex, located a few miles from campus, is popular with students and 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.