A beloved high school football player was tragically shot dead at his sister’s Sweet 16 birthday party in Alabama Saturday night, reports said. The teen, who was committed to play Division 1 college ball next season, was one of four killed and 28 injured as a result of the incident.
The shooting took place around 10:34 p.m. at the Mahogany Masterpiece Dance Studio in Dadeville, Alabama. The small town sits roughly an hour outside the state capital of Montgomery and has a population of just over 3,000 people.
Community leaders named Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell–a star receiver at Dadeville High School who planned to attend and play football at Jacksonville State University in the fall–as one of the dead, according to AL.com. His sister, Alexis, and the pair’s mother were both injured as well, the siblings’ grandmother told NPR.
The other victims were not immediately named.
An assistant football coach for Dadeville who spoke with AL.com remembered Dowdell as an honor student and standout athlete who came from a “good family,” adding that the incident has left the entire community shaken up.
“It’s a small town. We don’t have too many crimes like this, at all. So it’s shocking, very shocking. Very shocking,” said Michael Taylor, who also coached Dowdell in basketball and track.
Keenan Cooper, who was the DJ at the party when the shooting started, told CNN that Dowdell was “kind of like the hometown hero.”
“Seeing all those bodies at the front door, all those kids are probably going to be traumatized,” Cooper said.
Pastor Ben Hayes of the Dadeville First Baptist Church echoed the sentiment at a prayer service outside a local hospital Sunday morning, saying: “It’s a very close, tight-knit community,”
“Everybody knows everybody,” Hayes told CNN. “That’s why this is so difficult, it’s because this, it’s affecting everybody in the community.”
Of the 15 hospitalized, six have been treated and released, Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital spokeswoman Heidi Smith told CNN. Several others are still in critical condition.
In an update Sunday afternoon, Dadeville Senior Trooper Jeremy Burkett described the injuries “as a wide variety… that were sustained.”
“This is going to be a long, complicated process,” Burkett said. “We’re going to continue to work through in a very methodical way, to go through this scene, to look at the facts and ensure that justice is brought to bear for the families.”
It does not appear anyone is in custody in relation to the shooting—and it’s unclear whether police are seeking any suspects. Officials did not take questions during their news conference but pleaded for individuals with information about the shooting to come forward.
Jacksonville State released a statement mourning the loss of Dowdell, writing that “he was a great young man with a bright future.”
“My staff and I are heartbroken and hope that everyone will support his family through this difficult time,” the school’s head coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Alabama governor Kay Ivey also released a statement mourning those killed in the senseless incident.
“This morning, I grieve with the people of Dadeville and my fellow Alabamians,” Gov. Kay Ivey tweeted Sunday morning.
“Violent crime has NO place in our state, and we are staying closely updated by law enforcement as details emerge.”