In a tragic incident in Dadeville, a small city in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, four individuals lost their lives, including a rising American football player, while 28 others sustained injuries, with some in critical condition. The shooting occurred late on Saturday evening during a teenager's 16th birthday celebration, approximately 60 miles (100km) northeast of Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama. Though it was not immediately clear if a suspect had been apprehended, officials assured the community that the gunman was no longer a threat.
Jeremy Burkett, a sergeant with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, pledged that they would continue to work diligently and methodically to investigate the scene and ensure justice for the affected families. Among the victims was Philstavious "Phil" Dowdell, a football player who had recently committed to Jacksonville State University. Dowdell was attending his sister Alexis's party when the tragedy struck. His grandmother, Annette Allen, described him as a humble and kind-hearted young man with a million-dollar smile.
Rich Rodriguez, the head football coach at Jacksonville State University, expressed his heartbreak over the loss of the talented player. Dowdell's mother was also injured in the shooting. Burkett confirmed that the incident was related to the birthday party and urged community members with information to come forward.
Dadeville Mayor Frank Goodman described the scene at a nearby hospital as chaotic, with people running around, crying, and screaming. The small city, with a population of around 3,000, had never experienced anything of this magnitude before. Raymond Porter, the Superintendent, announced that counseling would be provided for students when they returned to school on Monday.
In a statement, President Joe Biden questioned the state of the nation where children cannot attend birthday parties without fear and called gun violence in the US "outrageous and unacceptable." He urged Congress to pass legislation that would hold arms manufacturers liable, ban assault weapons, mandate safe storage of guns, and require more thorough background checks.
The attack reportedly took place at a dance studio, as evidenced by images of crime scene tape surrounding the venue and neighboring buildings, as well as a strong police presence. Pastor Ben Hayes, the chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and the local high school football team, said that most victims were young since the incident occurred at a teenager's birthday party. He emphasized that the shooting would affect everyone in the small community, where serious crime is rare.
Various agencies, including the FBI, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Fifth Circuit District Attorney's Office, responded to the scene and were assisting with the investigation. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey expressed her grief and solidarity with the people of Dadeville, emphasizing that violent crime has no place in the state.
This shooting is not the first of its kind in Dadeville; in July 2016, five people were injured in a shooting at an American Legion hall, with a man later charged with five counts of attempted murder. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 162 mass shootings in the country so far this year. The Dadeville shooting took place within weeks of two high-profile mass shootings in the neighboring states of Tennessee and Kentucky, prompting local leaders to call for tighter gun control measures last week.