Two teenagers have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with an Alabama shooting that killed four people at a Sweet 16 birthday party, investigators announced Wednesday.
District Attorney Mike Segrest said the pair, aged 17 and 16 and both from Tuskegee, Ala., would be charged as adults. Prosecutors would ask a judge to hold them without bail, he said, with a bond hearing required before Friday.
Segrest said four people remain in the hospital in critical condition and that more charges would be forthcoming.
“We’re going to make sure all those victims have justice, not just the deceased,” he said.
The violence shocked Dadeville, a sleepy town of 3,200. In addition to the four young people who died, another 32 were wounded, some critically.
Segrest said that grand jurors typically meet in Tallapoosa County in March and September, but he said he would recall grand jurors to seek an indictment before September.
“If we can establish the facts, we will be asking our grand jury to come back in,” he said.
Aspiring athletes, performers killed
The gunfire broke out at a birthday party for Alexis Dowdell, which was being held at a dance studio just off the town’s courthouse square. Witnesses have said multiple people began shooting some time after Dowdell’s mother paused the celebration to ask people with guns to leave.
The birthday girl’s brother, Philstavious (Phil) Dowdell, died in his sister’s arms. He and another victim were high school seniors, and families were left planning funerals instead of graduation celebrations. Two other young men were also killed.
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The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency had said only that shell casings from handguns had been found, noting that there was no evidence a high-powered rifle was used. Investigators repeatedly appealed for information from the public, including videos.
Besides Phil Dowdell, a star wide receiver with plans to play college football, those killed were fellow Dadeville High senior Shaunkivia Nicole (Keke) Smith, 17, an athlete-turned-team manager; 2022 Opelika High School graduate Marsiah Emmanuel (Siah) Collins, 19, an aspiring singer who planned to start college this fall; and 2018 Dadeville High graduate Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23, another former athlete at the school.
Holston had gone to the party to check on a younger family member who feared trouble, Holston’s mother Janett Heard told AL.com. Relatives told the news outlet that the shooting began shortly after Holston arrived, and that he pulled his younger relative to safety.
In 2020, Alabama had the fifth highest rate of gun deaths in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.