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A woman embraces Dadeville High School football player Antojuan Woody at a prayer vigil on Sunday, April 16, 2023, outside First Baptist Church in Dadeville, Ala. Alabama law enforcement officers were imploring people to come forward with information about a shooting that killed multiple people and injured over two dozen others during a teenager's birthday party on Saturday, April 15. AP Photo/Jeff Amy

Public safety

Dadeville, all of Alabama await answers on deadly shooting

Four days after a horrific mass shooting at a teen’s birthday party, details on the shooting or suspects has been hard to come by.

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Dadeville residents — and much of the state — are hopeful that Wednesday will finally bring some answers about the deadly mass shooting that took place Saturday night. 

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which is leading the investigation into the shooting that left four people dead at a teenager’s birthday party, has called for a 10 a.m. press conference to provide an update. Over the past three days, ALEA has provided just three updates and given out only basic information at each. 

To date, four days after the deadly shooting that left four dead and 32 injured at a birthday party, ALEA has provided no information at all on suspects or on the motive for the shooting. The agency has repeatedly asked for the public’s help and set up a tip line, but it has provided almost no information in return, even to local officials who are hearing constantly from frightened and concerned residents. 

The lack of information for such a long period of time after a horrific crime in the small town has frustrated residents and local officials. Dadeville Mayor Frank Goodman has voiced his concerns over the lack of details or basic informational updates from ALEA. 

“It is especially (frustrating) when it is just right up the street, but it’s been that way since the night it happened,” Goodman told WRBC-TV. “I wish I did know something so we could ease the citizens’ minds.”

The lack of information isn’t unique to this investigation for ALEA. The agency is notorious for its poor communication on almost all matters – a strategy that ALEA officials insist allows them to work without burden, but one that also at times negatively impacts public trust and participation. 

What information that has been learned over the past three days has come mostly from interviews with witnesses and party-goers, including a heart-wrenching AP interview with Alexis Dowdell. It was Dowdell’s “Sweet 16” birthday party where the shooting occurred, and where her older brother, Philstavious Dowdell, a star athlete with a scholarship to Jacksonville State University, was shot dead. 

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In an interview with AP, Alexis Dowdell described a chaotic scene within the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio after gunfire erupted. Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party, said the music was stopped early in the party after word circulated that someone at the party was carrying a gun. Cooper asked that anyone carrying a weapon leave. 

A short time later, the shooting began. Alexis Dowdell said the shots seemingly came from several directions, indicating that there were multiple shooters. Her brother was behind her, shoving her towards the door and keeping her down – he was trying to protect her, she said. 

Alexis Dowdell said she tried to get out a backdoor, but she had trouble getting out because she kept slipping on the blood-slicked floor. A short time after getting out, she asked some friends to check on her brother, who was still inside. That’s when she found out he didn’t make it. 

Phil Dowdell wasn’t the only one. Three others – Dadeville senior Shaunkivia Nicole “KeKe” Smith; Marsiah Emmanuel “Siah” Collins, 19, an aspiring singer who had been accepted at LSU this fall; and former Dadeville athlete Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23 – were also gunned down.

JerMichael Morgan, who manages Bob’s Fine Food and BBQ in downtown Dadeville, just a block from the Mahogany Masterpiece, said he was out front of the restaurant when he heard what he first thought were firecrackers. 

“It was gunshots and a lot of them,” Morgan said in an interview with a film crew working for Reuters. “And all of a sudden a bunch of people started running towards me and yelling to call 911. So, I called 911.”

Morgan said he went to the dance studio to help. There, he found a nightmare. Kids with gunshot wounds were seemingly everywhere. Officials have said that 32 people were taken to local hospitals with injuries, some of them critical. Social media posts over the last two days have revealed that some of the most seriously injured are high school students. One student – a cheerleader at a Montgomery-area high school – has undergone multiple surgeries, including brain surgery, for three bullet wounds. 

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“I just did what I could,” Morgan said. “Those kids had injuries from head to toe. Gunshot wounds. Two or three of them. On each kid. Some were hurt worse than others. I was just throwing kids in cars, asking who could drive, telling them to take these kids to the hospital.” 

When he went inside, though, Morgan said he found a scene that he’ll never forget. 

“When I walked inside … that really got me,” Morgan said. “It really did something to me looking at those bodies on the ground.”

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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