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Dadeville shooting: 89 shots, seven guns, a “bloody” scene

The first hearing for the six defendants in the Dadeville shooting case provided the first specific details of the shooting.

Investigators work at the site of a fatal shooting in downtown Dadeville, Ala., on Sunday, April 16, 2023. Several were killed during a shooting at a birthday party Saturday night, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said. AP Photo/Jeff Amy

At least 89 gunshots were fired from seven different weapons inside the 988-square foot, Dadeville dance studio, where at least 50 young people were gathered for a Sweet 16 birthday party that turned deadly on April 15, an investigator for the State Bureau of Investigations testified on Tuesday, according to multiple media reports. 

The shooting left four dead – Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, 18, Shaunkivia Nicole “Keke” Smith, 17, Marsiah Emmanuel “Siah” Collins, 19, Corbin Dahmontrey Holston 23 – at least six others in critical condition and 32 total injured. Six people – three adults and three juveniles – have been arrested for the shooting, with each charged with four counts of reckless murder. Five of the six defendants were in court in Tallapoosa County on Tuesday for Aniah’s Law hearings to determine if bail should be granted. 

The hearing for Johnny Letron Brown, 20, of Tuskegee; Willie George Brown Jr., 19, of Auburn; and LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn was open to the media and public. A separate hearing for brothers Tyreese McCullough, 17, and Travis McCullough, 16, of Tuskegee, was closed to the public because they are juveniles. An unidentified 15-year-old has also been arrested for the shootings and is being held in a juvenile facility. Tuesday’s hearing was the first in the case. 

SBI investigator Jesse Thornton was the lone witness during the hearing, and he detailed an aftermath that looked like something out of a horror movie but also a series of events and actions that could have led to even more deaths and injuries. 

The party was apparently a microcosm of America’s gun problem. According to Thornton’s testimony, multiple party-goers, including at least two victims, had handguns; many of those guns had been modified to make them fire automatically; at one point prior to the shooting, several party-goers raised their shirts to reveal they were carrying weapons; and at least two of the suspects have been tied to other shootings, according to NBC News. 

Thornton testified that a gun was found on the chest of Corbin Holston, who died from injuries sustained during the shooting. Thornton said witnesses said that Holston began the shooting and was wearing a ski mask at one point during the party. Thornton also suggested that the handgun on Holston’s chest could have been planted. 

The suspects, who all allegedly knew each other and planned together to attend the party, were in the back of the dimly-lit dance studio, which was essentially a large room with only one exit at the front, when the shooting started. 

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Thornton testified that five of the suspects have admitted to police to firing weapons during the party. The sixth, Willie Brown Jr., said he didn’t fire a weapon, but at least two of his co-defendants said Brown did fire a gun, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. 

Brown is also a suspect in a separate shooting that occurred in Auburn later that same night, Thornton testified. Ballistics testing has matched the .40-caliber rounds recovered at both scenes. 

Also, another defendant, who Thornton didn’t name, was placed in Dadeville during the shooting because he was wearing an ankle monitor – a requirement of his bail for an arrest for yet another shooting that occurred in Tuskegee, according to 

No motive for the shooting was presented during the hearing. 

The judge did not immediately rule on bail for the defendants.  

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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