Five suspects, four deaths, 16 unlit candles

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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An editorial of The Greenville Advocate

Five suspects were arrested, charged with reckless murder. Four guests are dead and 32 injured, with four still fighting for their lives. 

An uncut cake and 16 unburned candles are all that remains of Lexi Dowdell’s “sweet sixteen” party on April 15, a celebration that ended tragically with Dowdell on her knees as her brother took his last breath.

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In the aftermath, the Dadeville community mourns and with them, small, close knit communities across Alabama and the nation grieve with them.

Tallapoosa County citizens demand answers. They all want to know why and how such a thing could happen.

And while communities wait, officials work. City, county, district, state, and local law enforcement agency’s work slowly, methodically to gather evidence and build a solid case, working to bring justice to the victims and their families. 

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Sergeant Jeremy Burkett said it best at an April 19 press conference.

“Make no mistake, this is Alabama,” Burkett said. “When you pull out a gun and you start shooting people, we’re gonna put you in jail.”

The emotion in Burkett’s voice was clear. He was angry. Angry for Dadeville, angry for the dead, and angry for the mothers. 

“Somebody’s got to start thinking about the mothers,” he said. “We’re tired of going to the mothers and having to tell them these kids are not coming home.”

Burkett promised the Dadeville communities that officials would remain “laser focused” throughout the investigation. 

ALEA Special Agents, the Fifth Circuit District Attorney, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff, the Dadeville Police Chief and others did just they. They kept their cool and their confidence, remaining quiet until five suspects were arrested.

The shooting was horrendous, tragic, and the stuff of nightmares. Communities mourned with Dadeville – prayed, cried, got angry, and asked themselves why five young men would enter a teenager’s birthday party to cut down four young people who had barely begun their journey through life.

As people continue to watch the story unfold, let us not forget those who are working to bring justice out of tragedy as well as the many who stepped up in the days following the shooting to bring beauty from ashes by serving the broken hearted victims, their families, and their friends.

What happened in Dadeville is enough to cause witnesses to lose hope in humanity, that is until we consider the beautiful picture of those who work to create good out of the tragedy.