Alabama Shooting: Four Dead, 28 Injuured at Sweet 16 Birthday Party

Members of the community in Dadeville, Alabama, consoled each other at a vigil on Sunday
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At least four people have been killed in a mass shooting at a 16th birthday party in the US state of Alabama.

Twenty-eight people were injured, some critically, after shots were fired at the Mahogany Masterpiece Dance Studio in the city of Dadeville on Saturday.

High school senior Phil Dowdell, a star athlete, has been named by local media as one of the victims.

President Joe Biden renewed his calls for tougher gun laws after the incident.

“What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear?” Mr Biden asked, in a statement released by the White House on Sunday.

This shooting takes the US to a grim milestone of more than 160 mass shootings – in which four or more people are shot – so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

With a population of about 3,200 people, Dadeville is a small, rural city which is not used to scenes of violence on this scale.

What is striking right now, and unusual, is how little we know about a possible suspect.

Next to no details have emerged about how the shooting was brought to an end, or whether a suspect has themselves died or is in custody.

Sgt Jeremy Burkett of the state’s law enforcement agency said the investigation would be a “long, complicated process”.

“We’re going to work in a methodical way to go through this scene, to look at the facts and ensure that justice is brought to bear for the families,” he said late on Sunday.

The injuries ranged from “extremely critical” to minor, he said.

It is likely that most of the victims were teenagers. Some of the parents were still searching for information about their children 12 hours after the shooting took place.

Among those who are known to have been killed is Phil Dowdell, who was named by his grandmother in local media.

He was a senior in high school and was going to Jacksonville State University on an American football scholarship.

Pastor Ben Hayes, who serves as chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and for the local high school football team, said: “One of the young men that was killed was one of our star athletes and just a great guy.

“I knew many of these students. Dadeville is a small town and this is going to affect everybody in this area.”

People embrace at a vigilImage source, Reuters

At a local parking lot where a vigil was being held, teenagers could be seen visibly shaking and crying from the shock of what happened last night.

Many shared hugs and tears as they tried to comfort one another.

One woman at the vigil, Shondra, told the BBC her cousin was at the birthday party last night. “They were being free, they were celebrating a life,” she said.

“You never think it’s going to happen in your area.”

Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the birthday party in the dance studio, told reporters he tried to help get guests under tables when it started, but it was too dark to see where and who the shots were coming from.

He said the party was for Phil Dowdell’s sister, as earlier reported by local outlet the Montgomery Advertiser.

The area around the dance studio remains cordoned off.

As the town woke to the news on Sunday, Alabama’s state 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,” the governor added in a statement on Twitter.

Alabama is a state known for protecting the right of citizens to own guns, and the Republican governor’s message of condolence has been met with criticism on social media by those advocating for gun law reform.

Ivey is a strong supporter of second amendment rights – the right to keep and bear arms – and last year signed legislation ending a requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public.

Her candidacy for last year’s governor election was endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

Fire crews at the scene of the shooting in DadevilleImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Fire crews at the scene of the shooting in Dadeville

The incident in Tallapoosa County, in the east of Alabama, follows a shooting on the same day at a park in Louisville, Kentucky, which killed two people and injured four others.

In his own statement, Mr Biden said the nation was “once again grieving” and described the rise in shootings as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

He said the American people wanted lawmakers to act on “common sense gun safety reforms”.

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