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After a Sweet 16 birthday celebration was shattered by a shooting over the weekend that left four people dead and at least 28 others injured, investigators in Dadeville, Alabama, are still working to determine what caused the chaos.

Authorities have yet to release details on a suspect or possible motive and have not revealed what led up to the shooting, which began to ring out around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.

Among those killed was the birthday girl’s brother, Philstavious Dowdell, a talented football player beloved by the community, according to Ben Hayes, chaplain of Dadeville High School’s football team, and Keenan Cooper, who was DJing at the party when the gunfire broke out.

Just weeks before the shooting, assistant football coach Michael Taylor said Dowdell told him, “If anything ever happened to me, even when I go to college, take care of my two sisters.”

Keke Smith, a high school senior, was also killed, according to Taylor and Amy Jackson, who said she is Smith’s cousin.

The shooting left dozens of partygoers with “a wide variety of injuries” and some were still in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, Sgt. Jeremy J. Burkett with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.

Hayes, who is also a church pastor and chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department, spent Saturday night at a hospital where several victims were taken and consoled students and families who had congregated there.

“It’s a very close, tight knit community. Everybody knows everybody. That’s why this is so difficult.” He added, “I knew these kids personally, most people did.”

Dadeville city council member Teneeshia Goodman-Johnson told a CNN affiliate that supporting students as they grieve should be the community’s top focus.

“Their physical, their mental, their emotional health is my priority right now,” Johnson told affiliate WAKA. “We need to make sure that they are okay.”

Mourners gather during a vigil for the victims of a shooting during a Sweet 16 party on April 15, 2023.

In the meantime, investigators continue to gather information about the shooting, Burkett said.

“We have been getting continuous updates throughout the day and we are absolutely trying to confirm and understand everyone that was in the venue there,” he said.

The sergeant also encouraged anyone with information about the incident to reach out to inform law enforcement. “I cannot stress this enough, we absolutely need you to share it,” Burkett said.

The Dadeville incident came less than two hours after reports came in of a shooting at a crowded park in Louisville, Kentucky, in which two people were killed and four others were wounded. After this weekend’s violence, there have been more than 160 mass shootings so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, marking more mass shootings than there have been days in the year.

The archive, like CNN, defines mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.

President Joe Biden responded to the Dadeville and Louisville shootings in a statement Sunday, saying he is praying for the victims’ families and reiterating his call for Congress to reach an agreement of gun control legislation.

“What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear? When parents have to worry every time their kids walk out the door to school, to the movie theater, or to the park?” Biden said.

Community members embrace each other during a vigil for the victims of the birthday party shooting in Dadeville, Alabama, over the weekend.

Though authorities have yet to release the names of those killed, several people who knew Dowdell have identified him as one of the victims and described him as a beloved student athlete who had incredible potential.

Taylor, who said he had been coaching Dowdell since he was 9 years old, described him as an exceptional athlete, saying, “Anything put in his hand, God blessed him to be able to do it.”

Dowdell was just weeks from graduating and had received a scholarship to play football at Alabama’s Jacksonville State University, said Cooper.

Jacksonville State Head Coach Rich Rodriguez released a statement Sunday describing Dowdell as “a great young man with a bright future.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Philstavious Dowdell and the other victims of the senseless tragedy last night, ” Rodriguez said.

Philstavious Dowdell was on the brink of graduating high schoo

Johnson, the city council member, said she knew Dowdell and two of the other victims, who she described as smart children with “very bright futures.”

“Very athletic, very humble children, very respectful children,” Johnson said. “They just wanted to have fun and that was taken from them.”

A second victim, KeKe Smith, was identified by Jackson, who said she is Smith’s cousin and described the student as “always smiling.” Jackson said she learned of her cousin’s death from Smith’s mother.

Smith was a senior in high school and was looking forward to attending the University of Alabama. Taylor also confirmed Smith’s death and said she was a student athletic manager on the Dadeville High School track team.

Those injured during the shooting were transported to several medical facilities, including at least 15 teenagers who were taken to Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital.

Six of the injured were treated and released and the remaining nine were transferred to other facilities, hospital spokesperson Heidi Smith said Sunday. At last check, five of those teens were in critical condition and four were stable.

In nearby Alexander City, Russell Medical Center “received multiple patients” from the party shooting, spokesperson Susan Foy said.

“They were either treated and released or transferred to other facilities,” Foy said. She did not confirm how many patients were received or their ages.

At least one of those injured was a student from the town of Pike Road, about 60 miles southwest of Dadeville and on the outskirts of Montgomery, Pike Road Schools said in a statement on Facebook. It is unclear what injuries the student suffered or what their status is.

“Many of our students know the victims of this tragedy. We can confirm one of our students was present, and we continue to pray for their complete recovery,” the statement said.




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