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4 were killed and 28 injured in a shooting at a teen's birthday party in Alabama

Community members watch as crime scene investigators work the scene of a shooting on Sunday in Dadeville, Ala.
Megan Varner
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Getty Images
Community members watch as crime scene investigators work the scene of a shooting on Sunday in Dadeville, Ala.

Updated April 16, 2023 at 9:19 PM ET

Four people were killed and 28 others were injured, some critically, in a shooting at a birthday party on Saturday night in the city of Dadeville, Ala., authorities said.

The attack took place at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio just after 10:30 p.m. local time as people gathered for a Sweet 16 celebration.

By Sunday evening, law enforcement officials still had not provided any details about a motive or whether any suspects had been identified.

"This is also a very fluid situation," Sgt. Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said during a press conference, adding that officials are still trying to confirm who was in the studio building at the time of the incident.

He did not specify how many of those 28 injured were injured by gunshots or how many of those injured were in critical condition.

He urged community members to come forward with any information that may be helpful to the investigation, which the ALEA launched at the request of the Dadeville police chief.

Heidi Smith, the marketing director of Ivy Creek Healthcare, which runs a hospital in Dadeville, said the hospital treated at least 15 gunshot victims.

Smith said at least 17 ambulances responded to the scene. Some victims were treated and released from the Lake Martin Community Hospital, while several additional victims were transferred to other hospitals — including flown to a trauma center in Birmingham, she added.

Annette Allen said that it was her granddaughter's 16th birthday party where the attack occurred. Allen's grandson, a high school athlete, was killed by the gunfire, while her daughter was wounded and sent to an area hospital.

"This is a small community and they just wanted to enjoy the birthday party," Allen told NPR member station Troy Public Radio. "We had to be standing and waiting for bodies to be brought out."

Phil Dowdell, her grandson, was weeks from graduation and planned to attend Jacksonville State on a football scholarship, Allen told the Montgomery Advertiser.

Rich Rodriguez, the head football coach at the Alabama university, mourned the death of Dowdell in a statement on Twitter.

"Jax State Football is heartbroken to have lost an upcoming member of our program," Rodriguez said. "He was a great young man with a bright future."

The shooting happened in a small "tight-knit community"

Police tape is seen outside the scene of a shooting in the city of Dadeville, Ala., that left at least four people dead and multiple others wounded.
/ Kyle Gassiott/Troy Public Radio
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Kyle Gassiott/Troy Public Radio
Police tape is seen outside the scene of a shooting in the city of Dadeville, Ala., that left at least four people dead and multiple others wounded.

Dadeville is a small city with a population of approximately 3,000 people. It's located about an hour's drive from the state capital of Montgomery.

At a press conference on Sunday morning, Dadeville Police Chief Jonathan Floyd described the town as a "tight-knit community full of wonderful people."

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey said in a statement that "multiple communities and high schools" were affected by the shooting.

The superintendent of the Tallapoosa County Schools, Raymond Porter, said counselors would be at various campuses on Monday to offer support to students — adding that kids will suffer the most from the recent tragedy.

"This does not represent our community or our children," Porter added.

Authorities have not released details about the victims or their ages. But the shooting at the sweet 16 birthday party comes as firearms have become the leading killer of children in the U.S. In 2020, gun violence overtook car accidents as the leading cause of death in people 19 years old or younger.

There have been 161 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the independent group Gun Violence Archive. The group defines a mass shooting as any event in which there were four or more victims, excluding the shooter. The Saturday attack comes less than a week after a gunman opened fire at a bank in Louisville, Ky., killing five people and injuring nine others.

President Biden was briefed on the shooting, according to the White House, which said Biden and his team have been in contact with local authorities to offer support and are closely monitoring the situation.

Gov. Kay Ivey tweetedon Sunday morning that she was grieving the events in Dadeville, but did not provide further detail on what transpired.

"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," Ivey said.

NPR's Amy Held contributed reporting. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
Kyle Gassiott