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18-year-old football star killed in Alabama mass shooting

Phil Dowdell

Rising sports star Phil Dowdell has been named as one of the victims in a mass shooting at a teenager’s birthday party in Alabama at the weekend.

At least four people between the ages of 17 and 23 were killed at the party in the small city of Dadeville on Saturday.

Twenty-eight more were injured, authorities said, some critically.

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Police have not said whether a suspect is in custody.

The city’s local pastor told the BBC the gunman was still at large and urged him to turn himself in.

On Monday, the flags outside Dadeville High School flew at half mast for the four victims killed on Sunday, identified as 18-year-old Philstavious “Phil” Dowdell, 17-year-old Keke Nicole Smith, 19-year-old Emmanuel ‘Siah’ Collins and 23-year-old Corbin Dahmontrey Holston, according to local media.

Dowdell was attending his sister Alexis’ 16th birthday at a dance studio in the centre of the town.

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He was due to graduate from the local high school to go to Jacksonville State University on an American football scholarship.

His mother is also reported to have been injured in the incident.

His grandmother, Annette Allen, told the Montgomery Advertiser local newspaper: “He was a very, very humble child. Never messed with anybody. Always had a smile on his face.”

His sports coach at the local high school, Roger McDonald, described him as an outstanding young man.

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“Everybody loved Phil. He always had a smile on his face. He always spoke to everyone. He was the ideal kid that you want to coach. He wasn’t just a great athlete. He was a great kid,” he told the paper.

One of his friends who played with him on the high school football team, where Phil was the wide receiver, told the BBC: “Phil to me was an amazing friend. God’s got an angel.”

Relatives and friends of Ms Smith said she was a once-promising 17-year-old athlete who was also about to graduate from the town’s high school.

Ben Hayes, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dadeville and also chaplain at the school football team, knew many of the students at the party.

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He received a phone call at the weekend telling him two students had been killed and several injured, and went to the local hospital. When he arrived, there were about 250 people in the car park waiting for news.

He says Dadeville – which has just over 3,000 residents – is a very close-knit community so “this tragedy affects us very deeply”.

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