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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Tom Davidson

Alabama shooting: First victims pictured from Sweet 16 birthday party horror

The first victims of the mass shooting at a Sweet 16 birthday party in Alabama have been identified.

At least four people were killed and another 28 injured, some critically, after a gunman opened fire at Alexis Dowdell’s birthday party on Saturday night at Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville.

The birthday girl’s brother Philstavious ‘Phil’ Dowdell, a high school senior, was killed alongside Keke Nicole Smith and two others. Alexis’s condition is unknown.

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

During two news conferences on Sunday, Sgt Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not take questions.

He did not say if a suspect was in custody or if investigators knew about any motivation. He did not provide the names of those killed.

The shooting occurred at Alexis Dowdell’s birthday party - her status is not known at this stage (Facebook/Alexis Dowdell)

Dowdell’s grandmother Annette Allen told the Montgomery Advertiser: “He was a very, very humble child. Never messed with anybody. Always had a smile on his face.”

Dowdell’s mother was among those hurt in the shooting.

“Everybody’s grieving,” Ms Allen said.

Dadeville athletics coach Michael Taylor said that Smith and Dowdell were very similar people, energetic and very funny.

“She (Keke Nicole Smith) was full of love,” Taylor told The Outlook. “Just like Phil, she was very very humble and she had this huge smile like Phil had. She would joke around all the time, and she got onto all of us — even me. She was just full of life.”

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, told WBMA-TV that the party was stopped briefly when attendees heard someone had a gun. He said people with guns were asked to leave, but no one left. Cooper said when the shooting began some time later, some people took shelter under a table where he was standing, and others ran out.

President Joe Biden said in a statement: “What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear? When parents have to worry every time their kids walk out the door to school, to the movie theater, or to the park?

“Guns are the leading killer of children in America, and the numbers are rising – not declining. This is outrageous and unacceptable.”

Mr Biden called on Congress to “require safe storage of firearms, require background checks for all gun sales, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

The mayor said Dowdell was “a great young man.” He also said he is concerned about those wounded and psychologically traumatized by the shooting.

“We are praying for them,” Goodman said. “We ask God, if it’s his will, to bring them back to their parents safe, so they can mend.”

Goodman said guns and violence are not a frequent presence in Dadeville. He said trying to control guns would prove as futile as trying to control illegal drugs.

Dadeville High’s head football coach Roger McDonald said he would try his best to support grieving students.

“There’s not a playbook for something like this,” he said. “So the best you’ve got to do is just love on your kids, let them all know how much you care about them, be there for them.”

McDonald said Dowdell had something special.

“He was a leader, and as far as his ability, an electrifying player,” the coach said.

Michael Taylor, an assistant coach, said he met Dowdell when the boy was 9 and coached him in youth football. Taylor said the team was invited to Atlanta to play in the stadium used by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

“He did some amazing things there, and he never stopped doing them since then,” he said. “He was the No. 1 athlete in the school.”

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