Dadeville, Ala. — Two teenagers and a 20-year-old man have been arrested and charged with reckless homicide in connection with the shooting death of four youths at a Sweet Sixteen birthday party in rural Alabama, investigators announced Wednesday.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced that Tuskegee residents Tyrese “Ty Rick” McCullough, 17, and Travis McCullough, 16, of Auburn — and Wilson Lamar Hill Jr., 20 — have been charged with four counts of reckless homicide. Tallapoosa County District Attorney Mike Segrest said the two teens will be tried as adults, an automatic requirement for anyone 16 or older charged with murder in Alabama.
Sgt. Alabama law enforcement agency Jeremy J. Burkett declined to discuss at a news conference on Wednesday how investigators believe the shooting happened.
“We cannot speculate on a motive at this time, as it will be part of an ongoing investigation,” Burkett said. “We can’t share that.”
State law defines reckless homicide as when a person causes death by acting with extreme indifference to human life and recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a serious risk of death.
Saturday’s shooting at a 16th birthday party rocked Dadeville, an east Alabama city of 3,200. Apart from the death of four people, 32 others were injured, out of which the condition of four is critical. The party was in full swing at a dance studio not far from the town square when the shots rang out.
The birthday girl’s brother, 18-year-old Philstavius ”Phil” Dowdell of Camp Hill, died as his sister knelt down beside him and begged him to breathe. He and another fatal victim, 17-year-old Shounkiwia Nicole “Keke” Smith of Dadeville, were high school seniors. Marcia Emmanuel “Siah” Collins, 19, of Opelika and Corbin Dahmontre Holston, 23, of Dadeville, were also killed.
Dodell’s mother, Latonya Allen, said, “I am broken to know that he is no longer with me.” “But I do feel some peace of mind knowing that they arrested someone.” The arrests were announced the same day Dowdell’s mother met with the funeral home to discuss the details of his burial.
Allen said the three suspects were not invited to the party and that his daughter “doesn’t know them”, but that they may have come with someone else as word of the party spread on social media.
Allen said he didn’t know how the shooting happened, but when he saw him on the floor covered in blood, he knew his son was gone. “My daughter was kneeling next to him. He wanted to say something to her but was not able to.
This was the 16th mass murder in the US this year. The 17th incident happened on Tuesday in Maine. A total of 88 people have died in the murders so far in 2023. Mass murder is defined as the killing of four or more people other than the perpetrator, according to a database created by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. ,
Phil Dowdell was a star wide receiver ready to play college football at Jacksonville State University. Smith, who headed off to college in the fall, was also a caring older sister, and an athlete who became team manager after being sidelined with a knee injury, her family said. Collins was a 2020 Opelika High School graduate planning to start college in the fall after taking a year off to try his hand at music. Holston was a 2018 Dadville High graduate and former school athlete.
Flowers, balloons and two teddy bears were placed outside the dance studio on Wednesday, along with graduation caps and “Class of 2023”. Black and gold balloons and ribbons, the colors of Dadville High, adorn local mailboxes.
Segrest said dozens of teenagers from nearby towns attended the party, causing shockwaves throughout the area. “There were a lot of children in this venue and they are victims of what they saw,” he said. Their families are victims of this.”
A family member of Keke Smith was grateful for the arrest. “It doesn’t make the injury any easier. But we are relieved that they (the suspects) are not out in the community,” Amy Jackson said in a phone interview.
Investigators have released very little information, to the dismay of some.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency stated only that shell casings from handguns were found, and there was no evidence that a high-powered rifle was used. Burkett again appealed for information from party-goers and the public on Wednesday.
Seagrest said he would ask that the suspects be held without bond. It was not known Wednesday afternoon whether those arrested had attorneys who could comment for them.
In 2020, Alabama had the fifth highest rate of gun deaths in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Somebody has to start thinking about mom, because I know I’m tired of it and everyone behind me is tired of it,” Burkett said. “We’re tired of going to the mothers and telling them these kids aren’t coming home.”