Two teens embrace at a prayer vigil on Sunday, April 16, 2023, outside First Baptist Church in Dadeville, Ala. Several people were killed and over two dozen were injured in a shooting at a teen birthday party in the town on Saturday, April 15.InternationalIndiaAfricaIn Alabama, four people were killed and nearly 30 were injured during a “Sweet 16” party that turned violent on Saturday night. Among the victims was Phil Dowdell, an honor student and star athlete at Dadeville High School, who had recently committed to playing wide receiver at Jacksonville State University.The party, which was being held in honor of Dowdell’s little sister, turned deadly when gunfire erupted, killing Dowdell, his classmate KeKe Nicole Smith, and two other individuals. Dowdell’s mother was also injured in the incident, sustaining two gunshot wounds. The shooting left the community in shock, as small towns like Dadeville rarely experience such violent crimes.Jacksonville State University’s head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, expressed his condolences for Dowdell’s family, calling him a “great young man with a bright future.” Rodriguez also called for support for families of other victims.AmericasBiden Says Congress Should Pass Stricter Gun Control01:21 GMTMichael Taylor, an assistant coach at Dadeville, described Dowdell as the “No. 1 athlete in the school” and a standout in football, basketball, and track. Dowdell’s grandmother, Annette Allen, spoke highly of him, saying he was a “humble child” who never caused trouble.Dowdell and Smith were both active on social media and shared photos of themselves and their senior prom dates. Smith was described by Taylor as “full of love” and someone who always had a “huge smile.” Smith managed both Dadeville’s basketball and track and field teams and was a player for the school’s volleyball and softball teams before an ACL tear during her junior year forced her out of action.AmericasOver 130 Mass Shootings in US Since Beginning of 2023: NPO28 March, 13:05 GMTThe shooting occurred at around 10:30 p.m. at the Mohagany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville, a town located about 60 miles east of Montgomery, the state capital. At least 17 teens were among those shot, and chaos ensued as parents searched for their children in the various hospitals the victims were brought to. Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Bureau of Investigation and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office, have been assisting the Dadeville Police Department with the investigation.Dadeville Mayor Jimmy “Frank” Goodman said he went to Lake Martin Community Hospital to visit the victims after a council member called him around 11 p.m. on Saturday night.
"It was chaotic," said Goodman. "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."
According to Pastor Ben Hayes, who serves as the chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and for the local high school football team, the shooting occurred during an argument. Police have not yet identified any suspects or revealed what led to the violence, but they have stated that the shooter is no longer a threat to the community. The tragedy has deeply affected the Dadeville community, with Hayes stating that “this is a good family in our community, good kids, some of the best people heading this party.“A reward of an unspecified amount has been offered by Crimestoppers for any information that leads to the arrest of whoever is responsible for the violence.