Shooting at Alabama birthday party kills 4 people, wounds 28

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A bullet hole is visible in the glass transom over the door at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville, Ala., on Sunday, April 16, 2023.

A bullet hole is visible in the glass transom over the door at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville, Ala., on Sunday, April 16, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AP

Alabama law enforcement officers Sunday were imploring people to come forward with information about a shooting that killed four people and injured 28 others during a teenager’s birthday party.

Among those killed was a high school senior who planned to play college football and was celebrating his sister’s 16th birthday. The shooting erupted Saturday night at a dance studio in downtown Dadeville.

During two news conferences Sunday, Sgt. Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not take questions. He did not say if a suspect was in custody or if investigators knew about any motivation. He did not provide the names of those killed.

“We’ve got to have information from the community,” Mr. Burkett said during a Sunday evening news conference.

Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, a Dadeville High School senior who had committed to Jacksonville State University, was celebrating at his sister Alexis’ party before he was shot to death, his grandmother Annette Allen told the Montgomery Advertiser.

“He was a very, very humble child. Never messed with anybody. Always had a smile on his face,” Allen told the newspaper, calling it “a million-dollar smile.”

Mr. Dowdell’s mother was among those hurt in the shooting.

“Everybody’s grieving,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Burkett said the shooting occurred about 10:30 p.m. Saturday. “There were four lives tragically lost in this incident,” he said.

The shootings rocked the city of 3,200 residents, which is about 57 miles (92 kilometers) northeast of Montgomery, Alabama.

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, told WBMA-TV that the party was stopped briefly when attendees heard someone had a gun. He said people with guns were asked to leave, but no one left. Mr. Cooper said when the shooting began some time later, some people took shelter under a table where he was standing, and others ran out.

Pastor Jason Whetstone, who leads the Christian Faith Fellowship, said the granddaughter of one of his church members was shot in the foot and underwent surgery Sunday.

“All of our hearts are hurting right now. We’re just trying to pull together to find strength and comfort,” Pastor Whetstone said before an interfaith vigil in the parking lot of First Baptist Church.

“We are a loving community,” he said. “We’re pulling together in every aspect to comfort each and every one of these children, the teachers, all of the community.”

Investigators on Sunday continued filing in and out of the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio, denoted by a banner hanging on the outside of a one-story brick building just off the square. At least five bullet holes were visible in the studio’s front windows. Less than a block away, the American and Alabama flags were lowered to half staff outside the Tallapoosa County Courthouse.

Dadeville Mayor Frank Goodman said he was in bed asleep when a council member called him just before 11 p.m. Saturday. He said he went to Lake Martin Community Hospital in Dadeville, where some of the people who had been shot were taken.

“It was chaotic,” Mr. Goodman said. “There were people running around. They were crying and screaming. There were police cars everywhere, there were ambulances everywhere. People were trying to find out about their loved ones. That was a scene, where we never had anything like this happen in our city before.”

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