‘Selfless’ Student Killed in UNCC Shooting ‘Saved Lives’ by Fighting Gunman
‘He just cared about people more than himself,’ one of Riley Howell’s friends told The Daily Beast. Howell has been identified as one of two people who died in the school shooting.
The two University of North Carolina at Charlotte students who were killed during a campus shooting Tuesday evening have been identified as 19-year-old Ellis Parlier and Riley Howell, a 21-year-old who “saved lives” when he fought against the gunman.
Authorities say former history student Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, opened fire in a classroom as students were finishing the last day of the spring semester, killing two and injuring four others. The injured—Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean Dehart, 20; Emily Houpt, 23; and Rami Alramadhan, 20—are all expected to make full recoveries.
On Wednesday morning, Terrell, who withdrew from UNCC earlier in the semester, was charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm on educational property, and discharging a firearm on educational property.
“I just went into a classroom and shot the guys,” he told reporters as officers led him away in handcuffs.
Riley Howell, a junior majoring in environmental studies, was killed after he rushed toward Terrell in the midst of his rampage and took him “off his feet,” police said in a Wednesday news conference. Before officers were able to apprehend the gunman, Terrell allegedly shot the college student “point blank.”
“His sacrifice saved lives,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said during a press conference Wednesday, adding that without Howell, “the assailant may not have been disarmed.”
Howell was active in sports, playing soccer and running cross-country, Dubois said in an interview on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks.
“Riley had the most amazing personality and always knew how to make someone feel important,” one of Howell’s childhood friends, 20-year-old Lucas Tate, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “He always brought an amazing light into the room and he just cared about people more than himself. He was just that kind of person. He was the most selfless person I know.”
A spokesperson for the Howell family released a statement Wednesday afternoon, describing the 21-year-old as a “big, muscular guy with a huge heart.”
“He loved Star Wars, birds, cars, snowboarding, going to the lake, Kentucky Hot Browns, cooking from scratch with cast iron while listening to the Feel Good Classic Soul playlist, and his Lauren,” the statement read, describing his long-term girlfriend. “He was everyone’s protector, always standing up for what he believed in and lending a strong back to those in need.”
Parlier, a sophomore and North Carolina native, graduated with honors from the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, a high school about 40 minutes away from UNCC. Parlier was interested in information technology and described as “a joy to have in the classroom,” a spokesperson for the high school said.
“It’s very shocking and overwhelming and our community is just trying to deal with this loss,” Tahira Stalberte, the district spokesperson, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Her family declined to comment, asking for privacy during this “excruciating time.”
Drew Pescaro, a 19-year-old sportswriter for the Niner Times, UNC Charlotte’s student-run newspaper, was one of the four injured Tuesday evening and is currently in stable condition after surgery, his older brother told The Daily Beast.
“We are just asking people to keep my little brother in their prayers,” Ross Pescaro, 26, said while at the Carolina Medical Center, where Pescaro is being treated along with two others who were injured. Ross Pescaro said his brother’s injuries “are really bad,” but he is recovering well.
“This feels like a dream, you know? Yesterday was Drew’s last day of sophomore year, and he was just telling me how he was excited to finally have some free time,” he added.
Described as a “dedicated and funny man,” the sophomore communications student is a video assistant for UNCC’s football team and a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity on campus. His brother said he dreams of working with the NBA after college.
“We support the students and personnel at UNC-Charlotte affected by today’s tragic shooting,” his fraternity wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “We are keeping Drew, the chapter and the campus in our prayers.”
Houpt, a 23-year-old senior, is majoring in international studies, the school confirmed. A former intern for the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, a non-profit associated with the school, Houp studied abroad in Costa Rica, Germany, and Italy, studies Arabic, and works at a local grocery store, according to the organization’s website.
“Emily has been interning for us for about five months now, mostly focused on helping us with our weekly foreign affairs-focused newsletter,” a council spokesperson told the The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “We hope she makes a speedy recovery and our deepest condolences are with the families and loved ones of those impacted in this tragedy.”
Alramadhan, a freshman, hails from Saudi Arabia, and his family was expected to arrive at the hospital by Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. Dehart, also a sophomore, is expected to make a full recovery, but his condition is unknown at this time.
Police received a call around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday about an armed student with a pistol who had shot several students in the Kennedy building, an administrative building in the middle of campus. Several officers that were nearby for a campus concert rushed to the classroom building and arrested Terrell in the room.
“One officer immediately went to the suspect to take him down,” Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said Tuesday. “Our officers’ actions definitely saved lives.”
According to WBTV, Terrell had withdrawn from all of his UNCC classes except for one, an anthropology class in the Kennedy Hall building. On Wednesday, he allegedly arrived to class armed with a pistol and “at least 10 magazines,” waiting about 10 minutes before opening fire, authorities said.
Adam Johnson, the anthropology teacher in the classroom where Tuesday’s mass shooting occurred, confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that the shooting happened “during team presentations.”
“My students are so special to me and I am devastated,” he wrote, adding that he will not be speaking publicly at this time.
According to WBTV, Terrell was allegedly considering three Charlotte locations to carry out the attack before he landed on the public university. The 22-year-old also allegedly “researched” and was influenced by the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-grade students and six administrators were killed.
On Tuesday evening, as Terrell walked into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's headquarters flanked by officers, he turned to several television camera and flashed a smile.
“This is the worst day in the history of UNC-Charlotte,” Philip L. Dubois, the school’s chancellor, said Tuesday.
The state university, which has an undergraduate enrollment of over 24,000 students, was established in 1946 and is located about 20 minutes outside of North Carolina’s largest city.
Terrell is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday morning. He is being held without bond at the Mecklenburg County Jail.