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6 people face murder charges for the Sweet 16 party massacre that left 4 dead and 32 injured

<i>CNN</i><br/>Two suspects have been arrested and charged with murder in the deadly rampage Saturday night in Dadeville
Two suspects have been arrested and charged with murder in the deadly rampage Saturday night in Dadeville

By Isabel Rosales, Holly Yan and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Six people — including four teenagers — have been arrested and now face murder charges in connection with the deadly rampage at a weekend Sweet 16 birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama, authorities say.

Willie George Brown Jr., 19, was arrested Thursday and charged with four counts of reckless murder, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said. Earlier Thursday, Johnny Letron Brown, 20, of Tuskegee, was arrested and also charged with four counts of reckless murder, the agency said.

Wilson LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and faces the same charges, the agency said in a news release. It is unknown if Hill has an attorney.

Ty Reik McCullough, 17, and Travis McCullough, 16, both of Tuskegee, were arrested Tuesday night and also face four counts of reckless murder, said Sgt. Jeremy Burkett with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

A 15-year-old from Tuskegee was arrested Thursday morning and faces the same charges, the agency said without naming that teen.

With the exception of the 15-year-old, the suspects were being held without bond in the Tallapoosa County Jail, the agency said Thursday. It did not mention the location or conditions of the 15-year-old’s detention.

The attack Saturday night left four people dead and at least 32 others hurt, including at least 15 teenagers who suffered gunshot wounds. Given the injuries, more charges will be filed, and Ty Reik McCullough and Travis McCullough will be charged as adults, Fifth Circuit District Attorney Mike Segrest said.

“We’ve still got four that are in the hospital, four that are in critical condition,” Segrest said Wednesday. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The carnage was one of at least 165 US mass shootings — with four or more shot, excluding a gunman — in the first four months of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. But it’s still not clear why the young victims were massacred.

“We can’t get into a motive right now,” Burkett said. “That would be part of an ongoing investigation. We can’t share that.”

Authorities also didn’t say what connection, if any, the suspects had to Alexis Dowdell’s Sweet 16 party. Tuskegee is about 30 miles south of Dadeville, and Auburn is about 25 miles away.

The party was in full swing when gunfire erupted, witnesses said. Alexis’ 18-year-old brother, Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, was killed, along with Marsiah Emmanuel Collins, 19; Shaunkivia “Keke” Nicole Smith, 17; and Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, 23, the Tallapoosa County coroner said.

A candlelight vigil honoring Phil was scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Thursday at the Mt. Lovely Baptist Church in Camp Hill, Alabama.

‘I just want justice for my baby’

After four days of agony and uncertainty, the family of one slain victim was relieved to learn the first two suspects had been arrested.

“I’m happy that the investigation is going well and someone is going to be responsible for all the victims,” said LaShonda Allen, the aunt of Alexis and Phil Dowdell.

She said her family did not recognize the names of the teenage suspects, who were not invited to the party.

For her sister LaTonya Allen, what should have been a night of jubilation for her daughter’s 16th birthday instead led to a lifetime of anguish after the death of her 18-year-old son.

Phil was shot twice in the neck and died one month before his high school graduation. He had been looking forward to attending Jacksonville State University on a football scholarship.

“I just want justice for my baby and all the other kids that were involved,” Allen told CNN this week. “They took away a piece of my heart, and I know the other mothers and fathers feel the same way.”

In addition to the four victims killed, another 32 people were injured, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.

Among them, at least 15 teens were shot and taken to Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital, a spokesperson said earlier this week.

He helped save his sister from gunfire, then died

Alexis had been planning her Sweet 16 for months and started feeling “butterflies in my stomach” the day of the party, she told CNN.

She went to her brother — and sat down on his bed — to tell him she was nervous, Alexis recalled. Phil comforted her and assured her she would have fun.

Hours later at the party, their mother heard a rumor that someone at the venue was armed. Allen made a stern announcement over the speaker, she said: “If anyone in here has a gun, then you need to leave because we’re here to celebrate Alexis’ Sweet 16.”

Allen and other chaperones scoured the crowd for anyone carrying a gun but didn’t see one, the mom recalled. And Alexis, her mother and the DJ didn’t hear a fight or any disturbance, they said.

But right then, as the teens were partying to the music of a DJ, gunfire erupted.

“All I remember is my brother grabbing me and pushing me down to the ground,” Alexis said.

She fell into a puddle of blood.

Alexis got up and ran outside, where she reunited with her mom.

But Phil was nowhere to be found.

When the shooting stopped, mother and daughter went back inside.

Bodies of the injured and dying lay scattered across the dimly lit dance floor, they said.

The lights flicked on, and horror revealed itself to Alexis and her mom: Phil’s body was soaked in blood.

Alexis ran to comfort her big brother as he drifted in and out of consciousness.

“You’re going to make it. You’re strong,” she told Phil. “Don’t give up on me.”

But by the time first responders arrived, Alexis said, Phil was gone.

Now, Allen is left to deal with the torment no mother should have to endure, she said.

“It’s a nightmare that I don’t wish on any parent — to go in and to see my baby laying there in a pile of blood,” she said. “That was the worst thing that I could experience in my life.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Alta Spells, Jamiel Lynch, Raja Razek, Kevin Conlon, Taka Yokoyama, Amy Simonson, Rebekah Riess and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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