How Alabama shooting victim Phil Dowdell died at his sister’s ‘Sweet 16’: ‘He tried to push me out the door’

The shooting took place at the ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party of Dowdell’s sister, Alexis

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 19 April 2023 09:50 BST
Four killed, several injured after shooting at birthday party in Alabama

A high school star, who was among the victims of a mass shooting in Alabama, died while saving his sister's life.

Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, 18, Marsiah Collins, 19, Corbin Holston, 23, and 17-year-old KeKe Nicole Smith have been named as the victims of the shooting in Dadeville where 28 others also sustained injuries.

The shooting took place on Saturday night during the 'Sweet 16' birthday party of Dowdell's sister, Alexis, at the Mahogany Masterpiece Dance Studio.

Dowdell pushed his sister to the ground as soon as gunfire erupted at around 10.34pm inside the dance studio. "I guess he tried to push me out the door as fast as he could," Alexis told the Associated Press.

The two got separated as the crowd began to run for cover. "I ended up slipping on blood, because it was a whole bunch of blood on the floor," the bereaved sister recalled.

Alexis said she had to "crawl over people" to get out of the studio as bodies were piled by the door. She found her mother and stepfather outside.

Dowdell, who was about to graduate and earned a scholarship to play for Jacksonville State University at college level, was fading in and out of consciousness.

Alexis made her way to him, begging him to stay with her. But by the time the paramedics arrived, Dowdell reportedly no longer had a pulse.

"When they came in, I said 'Can you check on my brother,'" Alexis recalled.

"And he checked my brother's pulse and I was like, 'Is he alive or is he dead?' And the people didn't want to tell me, so they just gave me, like, a certain look. And I just knew he was just gone."

"I got on my knees and he was laying face down. And that's when I grabbed him. I turned him over, I was holding him," Alexis added, recalling the moment she found her brother with the life ebbing out of him.

"I wasn't crying at the moment because I was trying to be strong instead of panicking. And so I said, 'You're going to be all right. You're a fighter, you're strong."

Pastor Ben Hayes, who serves as the chaplain for the local high school football team, said he was weeks away from graduation and had a bright future.

Mourners attend a vigil at the First Baptist Church of Dadeville
Mourners attend a vigil at the First Baptist Church of Dadeville (Getty Images)

“He was a strong competitor on the field,” Mr Hayes said. “You didn’t want to try to tackle him or get tackled by him. But when he came off the field, he was one of the nicest young men that you could ever meet, very respectful and well-respected by his peers.”

No arrests have been made as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency described the situation as “very fluid”. Authorities said only that shell casings from handguns had been found, making it unlikely that a high-powered rifle was used.

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