Alabama’s Dadeville — Alexis Dowdell sat on her older brother’s bed before her Sweet 16 party to tell him she was worried about the event she had been preparing for months, only to have him make her laugh and assure her that he would make sure she had a good time, she says.
Just hours later, her brother, Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, was among four people killed in a shooting at her party at a venue in downtown Dadeville on Saturday night, a massacre that also injured 32 other people and stunned the small Alabama town, leaving investigators scrambling to figure out who did it and why.
As the firing began, Phil pushed her to the ground. Later, after discovering he’d been shot, she begged him to stay alive, she said in an interview with the associated press on Monday.
“You’re going to be OK. “You’re strong,” Alexis encouraged her 18-year-old brother, who was losing consciousness. She pleaded, “Don’t give up on me.”
Many of those who were shot knew Alexis. Mariah Emmanuel Collins, 19, Shaunkivia “Keke” Nicole Smith, 17, and Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23, were also killed, according to the Tallapoosa County coroner.
Although the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency stated that 32 people were hurt, the agency did not specify their ages or whether they were all shot. On Sunday, an official at one hospital said that at least 15 teenagers were being treated for gunshot wounds.
LaTonya Allen, Phil, and Alexis Dowdell’s mother, also described the horror of Saturday night.
When gunshots broke through the music coming from the DJ booth, Allen was at the venue’s entrance, according to Allen, who spoke to the associated press. She was shot twice, though she wasn’t immediately aware of it amid the commotion.
Panic and dread reigned as people fled out the front door, leaving behind a floor littered with the maimed and dying, according to Allen and her daughter.
Allen claimed she could hear her two girls crying out for her. However, Phil’s voice was deafeningly quiet, and she couldn’t see him in the mob.
Alexis’ stepfather thought he could see Phil’s body on the floor in the dim light, which was confirmed when the lights were turned on to reveal Phil drenched in blood.
“That’s when everybody just broke down crying,” Alexis explained.
Alexis, who had fled the room after Phil slammed her to the floor, raced to her brother’s side, pleading with him to “stay with her,” according to her mother. “He was trying to say something to her.”
Phil was dead by the time first responders arrived, according to Alexis.
“It’s a nightmare that I don’t wish on any parent – to go in and see my baby laying there in a pile of blood,” Allen added. “That was the worst thing I could have ever experienced in my life.”
As loved ones grieve the victims, they join a host of other American families shattered by gun violence. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 160 mass shootings in the United States this year. Organization, like the associated press, defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people are shot, excluding the perpetrator.
With little information from authorities, Phil’s family is still in shock and bewilderment.
“Why would you pull out a gun at a kid’s party and just start shooting and killing innocent lives and hurting others?” Alexis stated.
‘Strong leads’ have been identified by investigators
State, local, and federal authorities are working to piece together the events surrounding the shooting and are seeking the public for any information regarding the incident.
Dadeville Police Chief Jonathan Floyd told the associated press on Monday that investigators have “strong leads” concerning the attack. However, no suspects or a motive have been named by investigators.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency stated Monday that it was still analyzing evidence and interviewing witnesses.
“Special agents did not recover any high-powered rifle ammunition at the scene; however, they did recover numerous shell casings used in handguns,” according to a report from the state agency.
Before the shooting started, there was no dispute or quarrel, according to Allen and her daughter.
Allen, on the other hand, stated she heard a story earlier in the evening from two partygoers that someone had a gun. She claimed she made a stern announcement over the speaker system, saying, “If anyone in here has a gun, then you need to leave because we’re here to celebrate Alexis’ Sweet 16.”
The mother and other chaperones searched the crowd for anyone carrying a firearm but found none, she added.
“They took a piece of my heart away”
Phil was only a few weeks away from graduating from Dadeville High School, where he was a standout athlete in football, basketball, and track, according to one of his coaches, Michael Taylor. He had received a football scholarship to Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
Alexis stated that she frequently sought counsel from her older brother or sat outside with him and their grandma.
“They took away a piece of my heart, and I know the other mothers and fathers feel the same way,” Allen added.
Collins, one of the victims, was best friends with Phil and an avid football player who enjoyed spending time with his sisters, according to his father Martin Collins. He stated that his son would be taking a gap year before attending Louisiana State University in the fall.
“He lived for football. “He was a very talented and intelligent child,” his father stated.
“I have my son’s picture over my bed, and to wake up now and see it and know he’s dead is devastating,” Martin Collins said.
Keke Smith, a senior at Dadeville High School, was looking forward to attending The University of Alabama when she was killed on Saturday, according to her cousin Amy Jackson. Smith worked as a student athletics manager for the high school track team, according to Taylor.
“She was always smiling,” Jackson said of her.