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Gunfire At Alabama 'Sweet 16' Birthday Party In Dance Studio Kills Four; Five In Critical Condition

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Courtesy Annie Spratt/Unsplash;

Apr. 17 2023, Published 10:15 a.m. ET

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Details remained scarce Monday about a recent deadly shooting spree at a birthday party in an East Alabama town. But there were hints that the gunman has yet to be arrested.

Authorities confirm at least four people died when gunfire erupted around 10:30 p.m. on April 15 at a rented dance studio in downtown Dadeville. As many as 28 other people were wounded, five critically.

Relatives confirmed to several news outlets that one of the shooting victims was Phil Dowdell, a high school senior about to graduate. He was recruited to play college football at Jacksonville State.

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“He was a great young man with a bright future,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said in a statement posted on social media.

“Jax State Football is heartbroken,” a tweet from the program added.

Dowdell's grandmother told several news outlets that his sister was the honoree at the “Sweet 16” birthday party. Their mother was among the people wounded.

The Alexander City Outlook identified another victim as high school senior KeKe Nicole Smith.

It quoted a spokesperson at Lake Martin Community Hospital as saying 15 teenagers were taken to the facility with gunshot wounds.

Five of them were taken to hospitals in other cities in critical condition. Those places include UAB Medical Center in Birmingham.

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But six other shooting survivors were treated and released. The Montgomery Advertiser reports one of them wore a hospital gown to a Sunday evening prayer service.

A journalist on the scene during the weekend noticed white sheets covering the floor of the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio, which was used for the party.

“This does not represent our children,” Tallapoosa County School Superintendent Raymond Porter said. He added that counseling would be available at all schools.

Authorities held two briefings for reporters on April 16, refusing to answer questions at either of them. So it's still not clear if a suspect has been arrested, was killed or remains at large.

But Central Alabama Crime Stoppers offered a $5,000 reward for information about "the identification and arrest of the suspect(s) involved” in the shootings.

At least two GoFundMe accounts were set up Monday in honor of the shooting victims and survivors. One is a “Dadeville Strong” account, claimed by the wife of a church pastor.

Dadeville is a town with about 3,200 residents. It is the county seat of Tallapoosa County, near the Alabama-Georgia line.


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