Alabama shooting: Phil Dowdell died saving sister's life

The birthday girl at an Alabama party where four people were shot dead was saved by her brother, she has told the BBC. He later died in her arms.

Tuesday - 18/04/2023 07:00 Author: Editors Desk Source: BBC News:

Alexis Dowdell was celebrating her 16th birthday at a dance studio in rural Dadeville when her 18-year-old brother Phil Dowdell came to get her after hearing that someone at the party had a gun.

Her mother, LaTonya Allen, had also heard the rumours. She said that she turned on the lights, went to the DJ booth, and asked whoever had a firearm to leave the party.

But when no-one spoke up, she turned the lights back off.

The gunfire erupted shortly after. "All of a sudden you hear gunshots and you just see everybody running towards the door and people falling and screaming," Alexis told the BBC.

Her brother Phil pushed her to the ground, she said, before the two became separated in the chaos.

She was able to escape the venue and took cover outside before someone came to help her up. Alexis said she hid behind another building in case the attacker was still on the loose.

When she eventually went back inside, she discovered that her brother had been shot.

He had lost a lot of blood. She stayed with him as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He was unable to talk, though he opened his eyes and raised his eyebrows as she cradled him in her arms.

"The last thing I told him was to stay strong," she said.

She added that her birthday would never be the same.


Thirty-two others were injured in Saturday night's attack at the party in Dadeville, a small, close-knit town of roughly 3,000.

Police have yet to name a suspect or a motive and have urged the public to come forward with information. Alexis and her mother said they did not know what had led to the shooting.

The city's local pastor told the BBC the gunman was still at large.

Jimmy Frank Goodman Sr, the mayor of Dadeville, told the BBC that the scene at the hospital after the shooting was chaotic, even worse than what he had witnessed during his time serving in the Vietnam War.

"There were people crying, bodies going into the emergency room and bloody clothes on the ground," he said.

A vigil was held for the victims on Sunday
A vigil was held for the victims on Sunday

The oldest of three siblings, Phil Dowdell was remembered by members of his community as a star athlete and a loyal friend. He had been due to go to Jacksonville State University on a sports scholarship.

Alexis said she had enjoyed watching her brother play football and sharing laughs with him. He always used to open the door for others and come into her room to apologise whenever the two of them had fought, she said.

Ms Allen said her son made her proud "in every way".

"A piece of my heart is ripped out," she said. "He was supposed to graduate next month. Instead of me going to graduation I'll be going to the cemetery to see my son."

Shaunkivia Smith, 17, Marsiah Collins, 19, and Corbin Holston, 23, were also killed.

Relatives and friends of Ms Smith said she had been about to graduate from high school.

Mr Collins was a varsity football player who hoped to become a lawyer. Mr Holston came to the party to check on a family member once he heard trouble was brewing, his family said.

The flags outside Dadeville High School have been lowered to half-mast. A vigil was held on Sunday for all four victims. Hundreds of people, including some who were injured in the shooting, attended.

Casey Davis, a deputy superintendent at the local board of education, said clergy and grief counsellors would be available to the community.

The US has seen more than 160 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines such events as ones in which four or more people are shot.

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