DADEVILLE, Ala. — Three people, including two teenage brothers, were arrested in a shooting that killed four people dead and injured 32 others at a weekend Sweet 16 party, authorities said Wednesday.
Wilson LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn was arrested and charged with four counts of reckless murder, said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, or ALEA.
The teens, Travis McCullough, 16, and Ty Reik McCullough, 17, of Tuskegee, were arrested on charges of reckless murder Tuesday night, ALEA Sgt. Jeremy Burkett told reporters earlier. They are being charged as adults.
The McCulloughs are brothers, an FBI spokesperson said.
Prosecutors and police revealed few details about the arrests, such as what weapons were used or a possible motive.
Gunfire erupted at 10:34 p.m. Saturday at a dance studio on Broadnax Street in Dadeville where friends and family were celebrating a 16-year-old girl’s birthday, police said.
Police identified the four people who were killed as Shaunkivia Smith, 17; Marsiah Collins, 19; Corbin Holston, 23; and Philstavious Dowdell, 18. Dadeville is about 25 miles northwest of Auburn University.
Four people remained in critical condition in hospitals Wednesday, officials said.
Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mike Segrest struggled to maintain his composure thinking of Alexis Dowdell, the birthday girl whose brother was among those killed.
“There’s an uncut cake and unburnt 16 candles that never got lit," Segrest said. "Lexi’s brother was one of the victims. On her 16th birthday party, she knelt by her brother as he took his last breath. That’s what we're dealing with."
An emotional Segrest said he knows the parents of several of the victims.
"These are my kids. These are our kids," the prosecutor said. "Don't mess with out kids. Do not mess with our kids."
The shooting started about an hour after someone with a gun was barred from the celebration, said party DJ Keenan Cooper, who reported hearing shots from multiple attackers.
Police said they’re in the early stages of the probe and are still in great need of the public's help, especially from party guests who have yet to speak to investigators.
“If you were at the venue that night — so you were physically at the venue — if you have not come forward, meaning you have not contacted law enforcement, please hear me: I absolutely want you to do that,” Burkett said. “We need you to come forward for the families, for these victims."
Dadeville Police Chief Jonathan Floyd also pleaded for the public's help and patience, saying the complicated probe can't be rushed.
"If we hurry, if we're careless and we do make an arrest but it doesn't result in a conviction, it does not result in ultimate justice for our victims, then we've failed our victims," Floyd said. "Please be patient. Please be understanding."
It wasn't immediately clear when the suspects would appear before a judge or whether they had hired or been assigned defense attorneys.
Ty Reik McCullough plays on the football team at Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee and would be a senior this fall.
Coach Lawrence O’Neal said he had a good junior season and was drawing attention from Division II and junior college programs. He asked the public to withhold judgment until more evidence is revealed.
"The picture that's being painted, it might not be the picture that comes out in the end," O’Neal said.
"I'm not saying they are victims. But what I am saying is the picture that's being painted now, that they just showed up to shoot up the party, is not the reality of the situation."
Hill’s father, Wilson LaMar Hill Sr., said in a phone interview that the family was hiring an attorney. He said that Hill is not a bad person and that “I don’t know how he got caught up with this.”
“I’m just praying for him and all the victims,” Hill Sr. said. “I’m praying for the victims and my son.”
The attack was the latest mass shooting to have plagued the U.S. in recent weeks:
- Four people were fatally shot in Bowdoin, Maine, on Tuesday; Joseph Eaton, 34, was arrested, police said.
- Five people were killed at a Louisville, Kentucky, bank last week before police killed gunman Connor Sturgeon, 25, a bank employee.
- Audrey Hale, 28, a former student at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, returned to campus March 27 and killed three young children, a substitute teacher, a custodian and the school's headmistress.
Jamie Morrison reported from Dadeville and David K. Li from New York City.