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4 people were killed in a shooting at a teen's birthday party in Alabama


There was a mass shooting in the town of Dadeville, Ala., on Saturday. Police say four people died, and at least 28 others were injured.


It happened at a dance studio that was hosting a Sweet 16 birthday party. And authorities have given very little information about what actually happened, why it happened or even if the suspect is dead or alive.

MARTÍNEZ: Kyle Gassiott of Troy Public Radio joins us now from Montgomery, Ala. Kyle, what do we know about what happened?

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Well, A, as you said, not much. The shootings happened inside a rented dance studio just past 10:30 p.m. Central time on Saturday. The studio often hosts big community events like birthday parties and other festivities and celebrations. It's right on the town square and a popular place. Now, we know that many kids were in attendance, but police have released no information about any of the victims, their age ranges or how they died or their injuries. Authorities gave two brief news conferences during the day on Sunday but took no questions and ignored shouts from reporters like me to just get the simplest of details, like if the community should be worried about a suspect on the loose or if that person was among those who died.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, you were there in Dadeville yesterday. What are people saying about this uncertainty and this lack of information?

GASSIOTT: Well, A, they're frustrated and don't understand why the police are being so tight-lipped. As you know, in other mass shootings, by this point, a day or two after the event, there's typically a good idea about the circumstances and some clues about what happened and why. And in this case, we really have none of that. The frustration bubbled up during a community vigil last night. I spoke with Teneeshia Johnson, who said she'd heard some things but didn't want to discuss with a reporter and is frustrated that the police aren't saying more.

TENEESHIA JOHNSON: I really thought that more was going to come out from that because there's way more information that they can give, OK? There's way more information. I just don't want to be the one to do it.

GASSIOTT: During this vigil, pastors and others talked about the need for hope and understanding. Pastor Ben Hayes spoke at the service. Here's what he had to say.


BEN HAYES: I was handed a candle. And I'm assuming many of you were, as well. And it's still daylight. But what good's a candle if you don't light it?

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So despite not having much information so far, has there been any attempt to try and piece together something, anything about the victims?

GASSIOTT: Yeah, A. One of those who died is Phil Dowdell. He was a star athlete at Dadeville High School. Just this past Friday, he actually competed and won at a track meet. He'd been accepted at Jacksonville State University and was going to play football next year. His coach-to-be at JSU tweeted about his death, saying he was a great young man with a bright future. I spoke to his grandmother yesterday, who said he was the older brother of the girl celebrating her 16th birthday. She was heartbroken and angry about his death, complaining about the prevalence of guns in this country. She also said that her daughter, his mother, was also shot, but she survived the shooting. A, this is just one of the many victims we'll learn about in the coming days.

MARTÍNEZ: What kind of a place is Dadeville?

GASSIOTT: It's one of those typical small Alabama towns, population around 3,000. It's about an hour from the state capital of Montgomery and not too far from Auburn University. It's a majority-Black city, one of the places where most folks know each other. Obviously, this isn't easy for the community, particularly the young people of Dadeville. The superintendent of the county school system has said classes will start today like normal, even though the day will be anything but that. He's already said that counselors will be on hand at schools to help students and staff manage the stress, grief and anger about what happened at this birthday party.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Kyle Gassiott of Troy Public Radio. Kyle, thanks.

GASSIOTT: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kyle Gassiott