DADEVILLE, Ala. – Authorities on Sunday were investigating a shooting that left at least four people dead and multiple others injured in Alabama.
The shooting happened at a birthday party in downtown Dadeville, Alabama, about 50 miles northeast of Montogomery, at around 10:30 p.m., Sgt. Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said. There was no initial confirmation about what led to the shooting, and Burkett did not identify a suspect but said the person is no longer a threat to the community.
“There were four lives tragically lost in this incident and there’s been a multitude of injuries,” Burkett said during a news conference Sunday.
Fifteen teenagers were reportedly treated for gunshot wounds at Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital, hospital spokesperson Heidi Smith told media outlets.
Of the 15 teens, six have been treated and released while nine have been transferred to other medical facilities, Smith told CNN. Five of the hospitalized teens were in critical condition and four were stable. Some victims were flown to a trauma center in Birmingham, Alabama, according to NPR.
The gunfire erupted in Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio, which was converted from old Bank of Dadeville two years ago. Some media outlets report as many as 20 people may have been shot at the gathering.
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Pastor Ben Hayes, who serves as the chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and for the local high school football team, said most of the victims were teens. He said the shooting occurred at a birthday party for a 16-year-old, and the violence has shaken the small town where serious crime is rare.
“One of the young men that was killed was one of our star athletes and just a great guy. So I knew many of these students. Dadeville is a small town and this is going to affect everybody in this area,” Hayes said.
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Annette Allen told the Montgomery Advertiser, part of the USA TODAY Network, that her grandson, Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, was killed in Saturday night’s shooting.
Dowdell was a Dadeville High School senior who had signed with Jacksonville State University. Allen said he was attending a party celebrating his sister Alexis’ sweet 16 birthday before it was interrupted by gunfire.
Dowdell died from his injuries, according to Allen. And his mother was among those hurt in the shooting.
“He was a very, very humble child. Never messed with anybody. Always had a smile on his face,” Allen said, calling his grin that “million-dollar smile.”
Jacksonville State football coach Rich Rodriguez released a statement in response to the shooting Sunday afternoon.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Philstavious Dowdell and the other victims of the senseless tragedy last night,” Rodriguez said in the statement. “He was a great young man with a bright future. My staff and I are heartbroken and hope that everyone will support his family through this difficult time.”
Allen asked for prayers for the county and the surrounding area.
“Everybody’s grieving,” she said.
Ashley Hill lives in Opelika, but she traveled to downtown Dadeville with two other women after hearing about the shootings to find out whether a friend of the family was safe. “Babies – very devastating,” she said of the teens that had been at the studio.
Dadeville was hit by at least one prior mass shooting when a gunman on Aug. 28, 2016, wounded five people during a party at the American Legion Hall.
“This morning, I grieve with the people of Dadeville and my fellow Alabamians. Violent crime has no place in our state, and we are staying closely updated by law enforcement as details emerge,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement posted on social media.
Dadeville, the county seat of Tallapoosa County in East Central Alabama, has a population of about 3,000 people and is about 57 miles northeast of Montgomery.
“The city of Dadeville is a tight-knit community full of wonderful people,” Dadeville Chief of Police Jonathan Floyd told reporters Sunday morning. “What we’ve dealt with is something no community should have to endure.”
After a new law took effect in January, anyone 18 or over may carry a handgun in the state without a permit, background check or safety training in Alabama. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation into the law that repealed the concealed carry permit requirement in March 2022.
Alabama has no state law that restricts or defines “assault weapons” or “large capacity magazines” and doesn’t regulate machine guns as a class of firearm, according to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, the White House said. The president was monitoring the situation and has been in touch with local officials and law enforcement to offer support, officials said.
In response to this weekend’s gun violence, Biden called on lawmakers to act on gun safety reforms.
“This morning, our nation is once again grieving for at least four Americans tragically killed at a teen’s birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama as well as two others killed last night in a crowded public park in Louisville,” Biden said in a statement Sunday afternoon.
The Dadeville shooting occurred around the same time two people were killed and four others were injured in Louisville, Kentucky, by someone who shot into a crowded park Saturday evening.
Officers were dispatched around 9 p.m. to Chickasaw Park where “someone starting shooting into the crowd, hitting at least six people, Louisville Metro Police Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey said. Four people were taken to University Hospital.
Five people were killed and eight were injured in a shooting rampage at Old National Bank in Louisville on April 10, including two LMPD officers. The gunman, who was an employee at the bank, was killed by officers. A motive for the shooting has not been released.
“This has been an unspeakable week of tragedy for our city,” Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said at the press conference Saturday night. “This is not our city. This is not who we are. This is not who we want to be. … This is enough.”
The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive tracks all mass shootings, defined as a shooting in which at least four victims are hit by gunfire. The attack in Dadeville is the 160th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the archive.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.