After a Sweet 16 birthday celebration was derailed by a weekend shooting that killed four people and injured at least 28, investigators in Dadeville, Alabama, are still working to determine what caused the chaos.
Authorities have yet to release details of the suspected or possible motive and have not disclosed what led to the shooting, which began around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, the Alabama law enforcement agency said.
Among those killed were the birthday girl’s brother, Filstavius Dowdell, a talented soccer player beloved by the community, according to Ben Hayes, chaplain for the Dadeville High School football team, and Keenan Cooper, who was the DJ at the party when the shooting began.
Just weeks before the shooting, assistant football coach Michael Taylor told him that Dowdell had told him, “If anything happens to me, even when I go to college, take care of my two sisters.”
Keke Smith, a high school student, was also killed, according to Taylor and Amy Jackson, who said she was Smith’s cousin.
Dozens of partygoers suffered “miscellaneous injuries” as a result of the shooting, and some were still in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, Sgt. Jeremy J. Burkett of Alabama law enforcement said.
Hayes, who is also a church pastor and chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department, spent Saturday evening at the hospital where several victims were taken and comforted the students and families gathered there.
“It’s a very close, tight-knit community. Everyone knows everyone. That’s why it’s so difficult.” He added, “I knew these kids personally, as do most people.”
Dadeville City Council member Tenishia Goodman-Johnson told the CNN affiliate that supporting students when they grieve should be a top priority for the community.
“Their physical, mental and emotional health is my number one priority right now,” Johnson told affiliate WAKA. “We have to make sure they’re all right.”
Meanwhile, investigators continue to gather information about the shooting, Burkett said.
“We get continuous updates throughout the day and we are absolutely trying to confirm and understand everyone who was there on site,” he said.
The sergeant also urged anyone with information about the incident to report to law enforcement. “I can’t stress this enough, we absolutely need you to share it,” Burkett said.
The Dadeville incident comes less than two hours after reports were made of a shooting in a crowded park in Louisville, Kentucky that left two people dead and four injured. There have been more than 160 mass shootings in 2023 following this weekend’s violence, according to the agency. G*n violence archivenoting more mass executions than there were days in a year.
The archive, like CNN, defines mass shootings as shootings of four or more people, not counting the shooter.
President Joe Biden reacted to the shootings in Deadville and Louisville in a statement Sunday, saying he was praying for the families of the victims and reiterating his call for Congress to reach an agreement on gun control law.
“What has our nation come to when children cannot go to a birthday party without fear? When do parents have to worry every time their kids leave the house for school, the movie theater, or the park?” Biden said.
Although authorities have not yet released the names of those killed, several people who knew Dowdell identified him as one of the victims and described him as a beloved student-athlete with incredible potential.
Taylor, who said he has been coaching Dowdell since he was 9, described him as an outstanding athlete, saying: “Whatever fell into his hands, God blessed him so that he could do it.”
According to Cooper, Dowdell was only weeks away from graduation and received a scholarship to play football at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
Jacksonville State head coach Rich Rodriguez released statement Sunday describes Dowdell as “a wonderful young man with a bright future”.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Filstavius Dowdell and the other victims of last night’s senseless tragedy,” Rodriguez said.
Johnson, a city council member, said she knew Dowdell and two other victims, whom she described as smart kids with a “very bright future.”
“Very athletic, very humble kids, very respectful kids,” Johnson said. “They just wanted to have fun and that was taken away from them.”
The second victim, Keke Smith, was identified by Jackson, who said she was 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 in high school and was looking forward to attending the University of Alabama. Taylor also confirmed Smith’s death and said she was the student athletic manager on the Dadeville High School track and field team.
Those injured in the shooting were taken to several medical facilities, including at least 15 teenagers who were taken to Lake Martin Community Hospital in Dadeville.
Six of the wounded have been treated and discharged, while the remaining nine have been transferred to other facilities, hospital spokeswoman Heidi Smith said Sunday. At the last check, five of these teenagers were in critical condition, and four were in stable condition.
Russell Medical Center in nearby Alexander City “accepted a few patients” after the shooting at the party, according to spokeswoman Susan Foy.
“They were either treated and released or transferred to other facilities,” Foy said. She did not confirm how many patients were admitted or their age.
At least one of the injured was a student from the town of Pike Road, about 60 miles southwest of Dadeville and on the outskirts of Montgomery, Pike Road School said. statement on Facebook. It is not clear what injuries the student has been harmed or what their status is.
“Many of our students know the victims of this tragedy. We can confirm that one of our students was present and we continue to pray for their full recovery,” the statement said.