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Auburn police chief gives reporter an earful over question

Don’t call a police standoff a “dog and pony show,” even if it turns out not to be a standoff.

A press briefing on the search for accused Auburn shooter Desmonte Leonard ended on a particularly strained note after a reporter had the audacity to question law enforcement’s decision to spend hours searching an empty attic in Montgomery, Ala. The police ended their fruitless search after having said they were almost certain someone was inside, based on tipsters and fancy technology like thermal imaging.

The spectacle played out on live television Monday night, and was chronicled in painstaking detail by journalists on Twitter. (A bogus account was set up by someone claiming to be Leonard, who informed his “followers” that things were getting a bit humid in the attic.)

But the attic was empty, and by Tuesday morning, reporters were left scratching their head. They didn’t get many answers out of Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson, who didn’t want the attic episode to distract from the tragedy of the triple shooting.

“Like it or not, it was a huge, huge song and dance last night that our viewers watched for hours, and still nothing has come out,” the reporter said at the end of the press conference. “So what kind of explanation can we give them at this point?”

The question, and Dawson’s response, sucked the air out of the room. Weary from almost three days of searching for the alleged killer, Dawson replied, “When you’re looking for the murderer of three young men, I don’t think that’s a song and dance. I think it’s a sad situation. I can’t call it a song and dance. I can call it law enforcement being dedicated, doing their job.

“Please, if you don’t mind,” the chief added, “let’s don’t call it a song and dance. Let’s call it some dedicated men and women out there risking their life to bring a murderer to justice.”