(CN) — The first arrests were made Tuesday evening related to a mass shooting at a Sweet Sixteen birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama, on Saturday that left four young people dead and 32 others injured, some critically.
In a brief news conference outside the Tallapoosa County Courthouse on Wednesday, Sergeant Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced Ty Reik McCullough, 17, and Travis McCullough, 16, both of Tuskegee, were formally charged with four counts of reckless murder. Officials did not disclose whether the two defendants were related.
Those killed included 17-year-old Shaunkivia Nicole Smith, 18-year-old Philstavious Dowdell, 19-year-old Marsiah Emmanuel Collins and 23-year-old Corbin Dahmontrey Holston. Dowdell is the brother of Alexis Dowdell, who was celebrating her 16th birthday at Mahogany’s Masterpiece dance studio on North Broadnax Street in downtown Dadeville when shots rang out around 10:34 p.m.
Burkett noted other victims remain in the hospital in critical condition, and additional charges could be forthcoming. He encouraged anyone who was present at the party, whether they witnessed the shooting or not, to come forward and give a statement to investigators.
“A tremendous amount of work needs to be done but we will stay focused on the families of the victims,” he said. “This is Alabama, when you pull out a gun and start shooting people, we’re going to put you in jail … We’re tired of going to the mothers and having to tell them their kids won't be coming home.”
District Attorney Mike Segrest said Wednesday investigators were still unwilling to provide additional details about the shooting, including a motive, whether there was more than one person who fired shots and what kind of guns were used, although they have reported no rifles were involved. Wednesday was the first time law enforcement acknowledged there were indeed any suspects.
Segrest cited the defendants’ constitutional rights and the preservation of evidence as reasons “we won’t be discussing all the details.” The suspects will be entitled to a bond hearing within 72 hours but the state will ask for no bond. They will be charged as adults. Segrest said all attendees were victimized, regardless of whether they were injured.
“It’s a traumatic thing for them and they need our services and support that is available to them,” he said, adding the crime scene included an uncut birthday cake with 16 unlit candles.
“Instead, she held her brother as he took his last breath,” Segrest said.
Alabama ranks fourth among all states for firearm mortality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while firearms are now the leading cause of death among all children in the United States, having surpassed motor vehicle deaths in 2019.
The only firearms bill currently introduced in the Republican-supermajority Alabama Legislature is sponsored by Democratic state Senator Merika Coleman and aims to provide so-called “red-flag” restrictions preventing gun sales or possession of firearms by individuals subject to certain protection orders.
After news of Tuesday’s arrests, Republican Governor Kay Ivey tweeted, “violent crime has no place in Alabama and what happened in Dadeville was horrific. I’m proud of the major progress made by law enforcement. The work is not done, and we will fully support ALEA as they work to ensure we hold ALL responsible for this tragedy accountable.”Follow @gabetynes
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