Alabama police say 89 shots were fired into crowded Sweet 16 party : NPR

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A bullet hole is seen in the glass transom above the door at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville, Ala., on April 16, 2023.

Jeff Amy/AP

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Jeff Amy/AP

A bullet hole is seen in the glass transom above the door at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio in Dadeville, Ala., on April 16, 2023.

Jeff Amy/AP

DADEVILLE, Ala. — An Alabama investigator on Tuesday described a bloody and chaotic crime scene littered with 89 bullet casings and other evidence after a shooting killed four teenagers and injured dozens at a Sweet Sixteen birthday party. The authorities have charged six people with reckless homicide.

The lead investigator in the case testified in a court hearing that could determine whether the three adults charged in last week’s shooting will be held without bail. The three juvenile defendants will have separate hearings. The judge did not immediately issue a decision.

“Multiple casings. Blood everywhere,” said Special Agent Jess Thornton. The crime scene was unlike anything he had encountered in 18 years with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, he said.

Shell casings from four types of handguns were recovered at the dance studio just off the town square in Dadeville, about an hour’s drive northeast of Montgomery, Thornton said.

Evidence indicates that at least one of the guns had been switched to rapid fire, he said. “Witnesses said it sounded like a machine gun.”

Investigators have not discussed a motive or what they believe led to the shooting. Thornton said the six accused are relatives or friends. They were not invited to the party but had traveled from Auburn and Tuskegee to attend.

Thornton said that five of the six defendants admitted that they were at the party and fired the weapons. The sixth suspect did not admit he was there, but the co-defendants said he was there and fired a gun, Thornton said. The investigator said that at least five of the six met after the party in a parking lot in a nearby town.

The three adult defendants are Wilson LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn; Johnny Letron Brown, 20, of Tuskegee; and Willie George Brown Jr., 19, also of Auburn.

However, a defense lawyer suggested that one of the slain supporters had fired first.

George Bulls, attorney for Willie Brown, asked the state investigator if there were at least any statements about one of the dead individuals, Corbin Holston, being the one who started the shooting.

Thornton replied that it was true.

Thornton testified that Holston, 23, of Dadeville, was found with a .40 caliber handgun sitting on his chest. Thornton said that the position of the gun, which had been fired, struck him as strange. “It’s almost as if it was put there,” Thornton said.

Thornton said there were about 50 to 60 people crowded inside the party venue, which measured about 38 feet (12 meters) by 26 feet (8 meters), when the fire broke out.

Earlier in the evening there was a loud noise when a speaker fell and at least one person lifted his shirt to indicate he had a gun, Thornton said. This led to an announcement telling people with guns to leave. The shooting happened shortly after, he said. He did not say if the person who lifted the shirt was one of the accused.

Two Dadeville High School seniors, Phil Dowdell, 18, and Shaunkivia Nicole “KeKe” Smith, 17, were killed. Also killed were 19-year-old Marsiah Emmanuel “Siah” Collins and 23-year-old Holston.

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