A high-school football star and honor student set to graduate with a scholarship to play in college was among four people killed at the “Sweet 16” party for his little sister in Alabama on Saturday night.
Phil Dowdell, who recently committed to playing wide receiver at Jacksonville State University, was one of the best players in the state, a coach told AL.com on Sunday.
The tragic high-school senior was slain at the celebration for his sibling Alexis, his stricken grandmother, Annette Allen, said to the Montgomery Adviser.
“He was a very, very humble child. Never messed with anybody. Always had a smile on his face,” Allen said.
A week ago, Dowdell posted on Facebook, “everyday my life go up & up, it’s hard for me to get mad.”
The same day, he shared snaps of himself and his senior-prom date, both of whom wore sparkly yellow outfits, with him in shorts and a matching jacket.
His sister updated her Facebook profile picture Sunday morning to a photo of her kissing her brother’s cheek.
Another victim was identified as fellow Dadeville High School senior and former athlete KeKe Nicole Smith, who was described as “so full of love.”
Dowdell’s mother was among the more than 20 other people injured in the melee, sustaining two gunshot wounds, Allen said.
Dowdell, who had a “million-dollar smile,” was getting ready to graduate before heading off to Jacksonville State on a football scholarship, his grandma said.
Michael Taylor, an assistant football, basketball and track coach at Dadeville High, told AL.com that the teen was a standout in track, too, and also played hoops while being an honor student.
”It’s a small town. We don’t have too many crimes like this at all. So it’s shocking, very shocking,” Taylor said.
The other identified slain victim, Smith, was the manager of the school’s basketball and track and field teams and played on the school’s volleyball and softball teams until her junior year, when she suffered an ACL tear.
Taylor said he had just seen Smith Friday, when she tagged along with him to help at an event in Troy.
“She was full of love,” Taylor told the Alex City Outlook. “Just like Phil, she was very very humble, and she had this huge smile like Phil had. She would joke around all the time, and she got onto all of us — even me. She was just full of life.”
As with Dowdell, Smith’s Facebook page was also filled with photos of herself and her senior-prom date as they posed together outside the high school.
At least 17 teens were among those shot when the gunfire broke out at about 10:30 p.m. at the Mohagany Masterpiece dance studio in the tiny town Dadeville about 60 miles east of the state capital of Montgomery.
Allen said that after the shooting, a lot of parents did not know where their children were and had to go from hospital to hospital to try and find them.
As many as 250 people were gathered outside an east Alabama hospital early Sunday.
“It was a very sad, sad scene, a very rough night,” pastor Ben Hayes, who serves as the chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and for the local high school football team, told AL.com.
“One of the young men that was killed was one of our star athletes and just a great guy,” Hayes added to The Associated Press, referring to Dowdell.