Three people, including two teens, charged in mass shooting at Sweet 16 party in Alabama

By: - April 19, 2023 6:21 pm

Candles with the names of four people killed in a mass shooting in Dadeville, Alabama on April 15, 2023 stand with toys and flowers in front of the dance studio where the shooting took place in Dadeville, Alabama on April 19, 2023. At least four people were killed and 32 injured at a Sweet 16 birthday party where the shooting took place. (Jemma Stephenson/Alabama Reflector)

DADEVILLE, Alabama — Three people, including two teenagers, have been arrested in connection with the mass shooting in Dadeville Saturday night that left at least four people dead and 32 injured.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokesman Jeremy Burkett said at a press conference Wednesday morning that Tyreese “Ty Reik” McCullough, 17, and Travis McCullough, 16, both of Tuskegee, had been charged in the shooting.

Burkett said the teenagers were arrested in the shooting. He declined to answer questions about motive or the suspects’ connection with the victims.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency sent out a news release Wednesday afternoon stating that they had arrested and charged a third individual, Wilson LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn, at around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The shooting took place at a Sweet 16 party at a dance studio in Dadeville. Marsiah Collins, 19; Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, 18; Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23  and Shaunkiva “KeKe” Smith, 17, were killed. ALEA said Tuesday a large number of bullet casing from handguns were recovered from the scene.

Dowdell was the brother of Alexis Dowdell, who was celebrating her 16th birthday at the studio. Mike Segrest, the district attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Dadeville, said her birthday cake had gone uncut and her candles unlit.

ALEA says the three were charged with four counts of “reckless murder.” There is no “reckless murder” charge under the state’s murder statues. An ALEA spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency would have additional information.

Martin Collins, the father of Marsiah Collins, said in a phone interview Wednesday morning that the arrests of the teenagers showed the scope of the tragedy.

“Those two young people lost their lives, as well, due to their reckless disregard for human life,” he said.

Mike Segrest, the district attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Dadeville, said the state would ask for the suspects to be held without bond. A local grand jury that had convened in March could be called to meet again before the next grand jury sits in September, he said.

“That’s unprecedented,” he said. “And hasn’t been done that I’m aware of anytime recently here. This is an unprecedented situation.”

Law enforcement had released little information on the investigation prior to the press conference Wednesday, leading to online speculation and criticism. Segrest said his silence was due to the constitutional rights of the suspects.

“We’re not concerned about the headlines,” said Burkett. “We’re not. We’re worried about mamas.”

Lisa Jones, the mother of a 16-year-old in Dadeville, said after the press conference that her daughter, a cheerleader on a team with Alexis Dowdell, has not gone back to school yet.

“I just want people to let these guys do their job,” she said. “And, you know, quit being so curious about it because it’s people’s lives. These kids got mamas, and, you know, we’re close knit here in Dadeville.”

Brownie Caldwell, the tennis coach at Dadeville High School, said that every person in the school has been affected. She said a lot of kids haven’t returned yet.

“We need to be there for them,” she said. “And we need to love on them and just, you know, just be there for them.”

At the news conference, Dadeville Chief of Police Jonathan Floyd told the gathered media, which included local and national journalists, that the community of Dadeville will be reeling from the aftermath of the shooting long after most of them leave.

“In a few days, most of you are going to be gone,” he said. “Our community is still going to be here.”

A few blocks away from the press conference, a memorial had been set up for the four confirmed victims of the shooting. A graduation bear had the names of Phil Dowdell and KeKe Smith, both Dadeville High School seniors, written on it.

In between welcomes and times for city council meetings, Dadeville City Hall’s electronic sign said “Pray for Dadeville,” “We are brokenhearted and mourn for our precious children” “Dadeville Strong,” and “In loving memory of all affected” in bright red letters.

Elaine Floyd, one of the owners of Floyd’s Seed and Feed in downtown, said Wednesday nothing like this had ever happened in her Dadeville.

She remembered holding hands with everyone in church on Sunday morning and said the town was “dead.” Reporters have been in her store every day since then asking questions.

Releasing the names of the suspects, she said, will help people feel less nervous.

“Dadeville is just a good little town,” she said. “My mother-in-law owned this business and the one across the street for 42 years and never been scared. Never had any reason, and this is the first thing that’s ever happened in all these years. So it will bounce back. And we’ll be back to normal.” 

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Jay Hovey, R-Auburn, said that there would be discussions about the role of legislators in the aftermath of the shooting, but Hovey said that they can’t “legislate morality.”

“There’ll be discussions on this floor and in legislative bodies across this country about the responsibility of legislators,” Hovey said. “While of course we have we have the responsibility to do everything we can to protect our communities, this war will only be won by changing hearts.”

Hovey is the Senator that represents Dadeville.

Ahead of the Wednesday morning news conference in Dadeville, Arlene Wyckoff, who identified herself as a member of the NAACP and living in Alexander City, said she was “offended” by the comments that Hovey had made.

“I was offended by that because put the blame where it belong: on the gunmakers, on the people that bring them in here giving them out distributing them out to these children,” she said.

After the Wednesday Senate meeting, President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said that Dadeville was a “terrible tragedy” with an ongoing investigation in response to a question about gun safety legislation being passed this session.

When asked a follow-up question about the likelihood of legislation making it to the floor, Reed said: “That’s what I want to say today.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a Wednesday afternoon news release announcing that a third person had been arrested and charged.

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