(CNN) -- Two high school seniors on the brink of graduating were among four people inexplicably killed at a Sweet 16 birthday party -- leaving an Alabama community engulfed in confusion and grief.

At least 15 other teens were also shot and hospitalized Saturday night in Dadeville, a close-knit city of 3,000 people.

Now, investigators are asking for information about whoever turned a joyous celebration into a scene of carnage.

"I cannot stress this enough: We absolutely need you to share it," Sgt. Jeremy J. Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.


How the massacre unfolded


The gunfire erupted around 10:34 p.m. Saturday at an event venue in downtown Dadeville. Keenan Cooper, the DJ at the party when the shots rang out, said he didn't notice any fight or disturbance before the shooting.

"It's really sad to see all the kids that were shot and the ones that are deceased," Cooper told CNN.

"And seeing all those bodies at the front door, all those kids are probably going to be traumatized."

In addition to the four victims killed, 28 others were injured, Burkett said.

The sergeant did not specify the ages of those 28 people injured or whether they were all shot. But he said some of them were critically injured.


'Very humble children, very respectful children' were killed


Two of the slain victims have been publicly identified: Philstavious Dowdell and KeKe Smith.

Both were seniors at Dadeville High School and looking forward to going to college.

Dowdell was the brother of the birthday girl celebrating her Sweet 16, Cooper said. He was also a star football player at Dadeville High School and earned a scholarship to play at Jacksonville State University.

Dowdell was "kind of like the hometown hero," Cooper said.

City council member Teneeshia Goodman-Johnson said she knew Dowdell and two of the other victims. All were smart children "with very bright futures," she told CNN affiliate WAKA.

"Very athletic, very humble children, very respectful children," Goodman-Johnson said. "They just wanted to have fun, and that was taken from them."

Smith was looking forward to attending the University of Alabama, her cousin Amy Jackson said.

Smith was also a student athletic manager on the Dadeville High School track team, coach Michael Taylor said.

Taylor, who is also an assistant football coach, said Dowdell asked him for poignant favor just weeks before he was killed: "If anything ever happened to me, even when I go to college, take care of my two sisters," the teen asked his coach.


Several teens are fighting for their lives


At least 15 teenagers from the birthday party were shot and taken to Dadeville's Lake Martin Community Hospital, spokesperson Heidi Smith said.

Among them, five were in critical condition, and four were in stable condition, Smith said Sunday. Those nine patients have been transferred to other medical facilities.

The remaining six patients have been treated and released, Smith said.

In nearby Alexander City, Russell Medical Center "received multiple patients" from the birthday party shooting, spokesperson Susan Foy said.

"They were either treated and released or transferred to other facilities," Foy said. She said she could not confirm how many patients were received or their ages.


Dadeville joins cities nationwide in mourning


The anguish gripping Dadeville is now tragically familiar across the country.

The US has suffered more than 160 mass shootings in the first 16 weeks of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Like CNN, the non-profit defines mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.

President Joe Biden said he is praying for the victims' families in Dadeville and reiterated his call Sunday for Congress to reach an agreement on gun control legislation.

"What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear? When parents have to worry every time their kids walk out the door to school, to the movie theater, or to the park?" Biden said.

Mourners in Dadeville don't have to speculate. They're already enveloped by grief.

"It's a very close, tight-knit community," said local pastor Ben Hayes, who also serves as the chaplain for the Dadeville Police Department and the Dadeville High School football team.

"Everybody knows everybody. That's why this is so difficult," he said. "I knew these kids personally. Most people did."

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