Football star among four killed in shooting at 16th birthday party in Alabama

Among those killed was a high school senior who was celebrating his sister's 16th birthday

A teenage football star celebrating his sister's 16th birthday was among four people killed during a mass shooting at an Alabama dance studio on Saturday.

Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell was killed at the birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama. A total of 28 people were injured, including Dowdell's mother.

Dowdell, a high school senior who planned to play football at college, has been described as a "great young man with a bright future."

According to CNN, as of March this year there have been at least 100 mass shooting in the US.

'He was a good person. I was standing right beside him. I wish I could have pulled him out'

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

“Everybody’s grieving,” Allen said.

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, told WBMA-TV the party was stopped briefly when revellers 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.Cooper described the teen as a “hometown hero.”

A pastor prays for shooting victims in Dadeville, Alabama. Credit: AP

Dowdell was about to graduate from high school with a scholarship to play football at Jacksonville State University.

Head coach at the university, Rich Rodriguez, issued a statement on Sunday morning after hearing of Dowdell’s death.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Philstavious Dowdell and the other victims of the senseless tragedy last night,” Rodriguez said.

“He was a great young man with a bright future.”

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) confirmed the shooting happened at around 10.30pm local time on Saturday, with no details about what led to the incident or if the suspect was in custody.

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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 are teenagers because the shooting occurred at a birthday party for a 16-year-old.

He said the shooting has rocked the small town where serious crime is rare.

Hayes said: “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."

Counselling will be available for students at the schools on Monday, the Tallapoosa County school superintendent, Raymond C. Porter, said.

Images of the scene show tape around the Mahogany Masterpiece Dance Studio and neighbouring buildings and a heavy police presence.

In a press conference on Sunday, Sergeant Jeremy Burkett, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, said: "There were four lives, not fatalities, lives, tragically lost in this incident and a multitude of injuries.

"This is going to be a long, complicated process. We're going to continue to work in a very methodical way to go through this scene, look at the facts and ensure that justice is brought to the families."

Dadeville Chief Jonathan L. Floyd paused to regain his composure before speaking at the news conference.

“What we’ve dealt with is something that no community should have to endure. I just ask for your patience," Floyd said.

"It’s going to be a long process, but I do earnestly solicit your prayers."

Dadeville, which has a population of about 3,200 people, is in east Alabama, about 57 miles northeast of Montgomery, Alabama.

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting, the White House said, adding that it is closely monitoring the situation and has been in touch with local officials and law enforcement to offer support.

In a statement on social media, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said: “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."

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