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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Alabama shooting: Brother died saving birthday girl Alexis Dowdell’s life

A girl whose 16th birthday party became the scene of a horror mass shooting in Alabama on Saturday night says her life was saved by her brother - who died in her arms after being fatally shot.

Philstavious ‘Phil’ Dowdell, 18, was one of four people killed when a gunman opened fire at his sister Alexis Dowdell’s birthday party at Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville.

Another 28 people were injured, some critically.

Alexis, 16, has now told the BBC how her brother pushed her to the floor to protect her from gunfire.

Investigators at the scene at Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in downtown Dadeville, Alabama, on April 16 (AP)

He reportedly rushed to the party after hearing reports that someone there had a gun.

At one point in the party Alexis’ mother LaTonya Allen, who had also heard the rumour, turned the lights on and made an announcement asking anybody armed with a gun to leave.

The lights were reportedly turned back off when nobody came forward. Alexis recalled how gunfire broke out shortly after.

“All of a sudden you hear gunshots and you just see everybody running towards the door and people falling and screaming,” she told the BBC.

She said her brother pushed her to the floor, but they soon became separated as partygoers tried to flee the bullets, and Alexis hid in another building.

When she eventually went back inside the dance hall later, she found her brother had been shot and had lost a great deal of blood.

Mr Dowdell - a star wide receiver with plans to play football in college - was fading in and out of consciousness and could not speak, as he lay on the blood-slicked dancefloor.

Alexis described cradling him in her arms, tapping his face and begging her to “stay with me”.

Shaunkivia Nicole ‘KeKe’ Smith, 17. Smith was of four people killed in the shooting on April 15 (AP)

“I was holding him,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wasn’t crying at the moment because I was trying to be strong instead of panicking. And so I said, ‘You’re going to be all right. You’re a fighter, you’re strong’.”

“The last thing I told him was to stay strong,” she told the BBC.

Mr Dowdell was killed alongside Keke Nicole Smith and two others.

Both of the victims who have been named were set to graduate high school in just weeks, according to The Outlook. Ms Smith was the manager of the basketball and track teams at the school.

Mr Dowdell’s grandmother Annette Allen described him to the Montgomery Advertiser as “a very, very humble child”.

“Never messed with anybody.” she said. “Always had a smile on his face. Everybody’s grieving.”

His and Alexis’ mother is understood to be among those hurt in the shooting.

As of Monday evening, state officials had yet to release much information about their investigation into the shooting.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said only that shell casings from handguns had been found, noting that there was no evidence a high-powered rifle was used. Investigators continued to appeal for information from the public, including videos.

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