Alabama shooting: Birthday girl's football star brother died saving her from gunfire at party

Alexis Dowdell and her brother Phil who died in a shooting at her 16th birthday party. Credit: AP

A teenager whose 16th birthday party ended with her kneeling by her brother who had been fatally injured during a mass shooting said he had died saving her from the gunfire.

Alexis Dowdell’s 18-year-old brother, Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, and three others were shot dead and 32 injured during a party to celebrate her birthday on Saturday.

She said she was running for the door during a break in the gunfire when her brother ran towards her to protect her from the bullets.

Alexis slipped on the blood covering the floor but managed to escape and find cover.

When she was able to enter the building later, she found her brother had been shot.

“I got on my knees and he was laying face down. And that’s when I grabbed him. I turned him over, I was holding him," Alexis said.

Philstavious Dowdell was about to graduate high school and attending Jacksonville State University. Credit: Philstavious Dowdell/Facebook

She tapped her brother's face and begged him to, “stay with me”.

“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," she said.

Saturday night's party began with “everybody dancing, vibing to the music,” Alexis said.

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, told WBMA-TV the event was stopped briefly when partygoers heard someone had a gun. He said people with weapons were asked to leave, but no-one did.

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

Not long after, the shooting started.

Alexis said she dived to the floor near the DJ as others ran out as she “didn't know where to run,” as shots seemed to come from multiple directions.

During a break in gunfire, she made a break for the exit.

As she did, her brother ran towards her to protect her.

“I guess he tried to push me out the door as fast as he could, but I ended up slipping on blood, because it was a whole bunch of blood on the floor,” she said.

Once outside, she found her mother and stepfather. “Where are my cousins, where are my friends? Where is my brother?” Alexis said.

Their mother went to look for Phil. "She came out and she was like ’My baby, my baby’s gone,'” she said.

By the time paramedics arrived, Phil, a star American footballer in college, no longer had a pulse.

“When they came in, I said ‘Can you check on my brother?’” Alexis said. “And he checked my brother’s pulse and I was like, ‘Is he alive or is he dead?’ And the people didn’t want to tell me, so they just gave me, like, a certain look. And I just knew he was just gone.”

Shaunkivia Nicole “KeKe” Smith, 17, an athlete-turned-team manager; Marsiah Emmanuel “Siah” Collins, 19, an aspiring singer and Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23, another former athlete at the school were also killed in the shooting.

State officials have released little information about their investigation and have given no details about the suspect.

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