Three suspects have been arrested in connection with a deadly mass shooting at a birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama.
Authorities announced the arrests of 17-year-old Ty Reik McCullough, 16-year-old Travis McCullough and Wilson LaMar Hill Jr, 20, on Wednesday, three days after four people were killed and 32 injured by gunfire at a Sweet 16 party. According to local outlet AL.com, the teen suspects are brothers.
The teens were taken into custody on Tuesday night, while Mr LaMar was arrested on Wednesday evening. They have been charged with four counts of reckless murder.
Sgt Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said during a press conference that a motive for the shooting has been determined, but details will not be shared with the public at this time.
“Please understand, with the violence that went on and the magnitude of what happened, we are absolutely still in the early stages of the investigation,” Sgt Burkett said. “This is the beginning, this is not the end. There is a tremendous amount of work that is yet to be done.”
Tallapoosa District Attorney Mark Sergist said more charges are expected to come. The suspects will have a bond hearing within the next 72 hours, and prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to hold them without bail.
Mr Sergist became emotional as he announced the developments, saying some of the victims were children of his longtime friends. He said that grand jurors typically meet in Tallapoosa County in March and September, but he would recall a panel to seek an indictment before September.
“There’s an uncut cake and unburnt birthday candles that never got lit,” he said. “I know some of these victims personally ... These are my kids, these are our kids, you don’t mess with our kids.”
The shootings Saturday night rocked the small town of Dadeville, about 80 miles southeast of Birmingham, and families suddenly found themselves planning memorials and burial services instead of graduation parties or college move-ins.
The victims killed were identified on Monday as Keke Nicole Smith, 17, Phil Dowdell, 18, Marsiah Collins, 19 and Corbin Holston, 23. Four victims remain hospitalised in critical condition as of Wednesday night, Mr Sergist said.
“We are going to make sure every victim gets justice, not just the deceased,” he said. “Even though these are 16 and 17-year-olds, we are going to charge them as adults.”
The gunfire broke out at a birthday party for Dowdell’s sister Alexis Dowdell, which was being held at a dance studio just off the town’s courthouse square. Witnesses had said multiple people began shooting sometime after Dowdell’s mother paused the celebration to ask people with guns to leave.
Family members welcomed the arrests on Wednesday.
“It don’t make the hurt any easier. But we are relieved that they (the suspects) are not out in the community,” Smith’s cousin Amy Jackson told the AP.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency had said only that shell casings from handguns had been found, noting that there was no evidence a high-powered rifle was used. Investigators repeatedly appealed for information from the public, including videos.