US law enforcement officials are pleading for residents to come forward with information on a weekend shooting that devastated a small Alabama town, leaving four people dead and 28 injured at a teen’s birthday party.
By Monday morning, 36 hours after the tragedy, state and local officials had yet to release any details about a possible suspect or suspects, the motive for the shooting, the identities and ages of the victims or how they died.
Authorities have not said whether they have detained any suspects or if the shooters remain at large or died in the Saturday night gunfire that shattered the calm of Dadeville, a tight-knit community of some 3,000 residents northeast of the state capital Montgomery.
Sergeant Jeremy Burkett, a spokesman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), confirmed the death and injury toll to reporters, adding that some victims remained in critical condition.
“I assure you we are doing everything we can” to advance the investigation, Burkett told AFP on Monday.
Over the span of two press conferences Sunday, however, authorities provided scant information and took no questions, with Burkett saying investigators were interviewing witnesses.
“We’re not going to rush to failure,” he said.
“This is also a very fluid situation,” Burkett added, as he implored residents to come forward with information that might shed light on what happened.
“I cannot stress this enough: we absolutely need you to share it,” the officer said.
President Joe Biden, who has long sought tighter gun safety measures, weighed in on Sunday to offer condolences and decry the “outrageous and unacceptable” gun violence against children.
Hospital officials said the majority of those shot were teens, and witnesses said the victims had been attending a Sweet 16 birthday party held at a rented dance studio on the community’s town square.
– ‘Saw blood coming out of my arm’ –
Hundreds of residents gathered Sunday evening outside a Dadeville church for a vigil where people comforted one another and prayed.
Taniya Cox attended the event in a hospital gown and an arm cast after being treated for what she said were two gunshot wounds, according to the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper.
“The mother said whoever had guns had to get out and they didn’t get out and five minutes later the shooting started,” the Advertiser quoted Cox as saying.
“I ran in front of a bullet and got shot. I didn’t know what was going on, I just saw blood coming out of my arm.”
Cox said that after the initial gunfire she returned to the room and saw “other shooters” present.
“They told me to get out of the way, or I would get shot,” she said.
Frustration over the police’s tight-lipped approach appeared to be mounting.
“There’s way more information they can give,” a vigil attendee identified as Teneeshia Johnson said on National Public Radio.
Among the victims was Philstavious Dowdell, a local student athlete who was weeks from graduating and set to attend Jacksonville State University on a football scholarship. He was celebrating his sister Alexis’s 16th birthday when gunfire erupted.
“He was a great young man with a bright future. My staff and I are heartbroken,” Jacksonville head coach Roger McDowell said.
The United States, a country of around 330 million people, is awash with some 400 million guns, and deadly mass shootings are regular occurrences.
Efforts to tighten gun controls have been paralyzed for years in Congress.
Originally published as Alabama police plead for tips in deadly birthday party shooting