UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip DuBois receives a hug after a news conference regarding a deadly shooting on the campus earlier in the day, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

‘Riley Howell is a hero’: North Carolina student who attacked gunman lauded

Two were killed and four injured in the shooting at University of North Carolina-Charlotte

A North Carolina college student slain while confronting a gunman in his classroom was being given a hero’s send-off Thursday as his body is taken back to his hometown with a police escort.

Riley Howell’s body was scheduled to depart from a Charlotte funeral home Thursday morning en route to Waynesville in the western part of the state.

Meanwhile, the suspect accused of killing Howell and another student at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, while wounding four others, was due to appear in the afternoon to face charges including murder and attempted murder.

Howell died in his classroom Tuesday, charging and tackling the suspect who opened fire with a legally obtained pistol, authorities said.

Howell’s decision to fight for the lives of others fit his character, said his friend David Belnap, who attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday with a homemade T-shirt with “Riley Howell is a hero” written on the back.

“It seems very much like something he would do. I want that to be his legacy, that he lost his life to protect those he cared about,” the sophomore said about his friend.

Howell, 21, likely went through the same active shooter drills as countless other students of his generation. They were taught to run away if they can, hide if they can’t run and if the horrible situation arises where a gunman prevents those two choices — fight for their lives.

Howell knocked the assailant down, buying enough time for the first officer into the classroom to capture Trystan Andrew Terrell, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said.

The gunman had a lot of ammunition and while detectives aren’t sure if he was targeting anyone specifically Tuesday, they know he picked out the Kennedy Building and gave no indication he was going to stop shooting before Howell charged, Putney said.

“His sacrifice saved lives,” the chief said.

READ MORE: 2 dead, motive unclear in North Carolina campus shooting

Howell was with classmates for end-of-year presentations in an anthropology class when the shooting happened.

In a statement, UNC-Charlotte said all the victims were students, five from North Carolina and one international. Howell, of Waynesville, and Ellis R. Parlier, 19 of Midland, were killed. Those wounded were Sean Dehart, 20, and Drew Pescaro, 19, both of Apex; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Rami Alramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudi Arabia.

The suspect’s motive wasn’t clear. Terrell had been enrolled at the school but withdrew this semester, UNC-Charlotte spokeswoman Buffy Stephens said. Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said Terrell had not appeared on their radar as a potential threat.

“I just went into a classroom and shot the guys,” Terrell told reporters Tuesday as officers led him handcuffed into a law enforcement building.

Terrell is under observation in police custody, and his father and attorney haven’t been allowed to speak to him, his grandfather Paul Rold said.

Terrell was on the autism spectrum but was “clever as can be” and bright enough to learn foreign languages, Rold said from his home in Arlington, Texas. He said his grandson wasn’t very social.

On Wednesday night, thousands of students and others thronged the school’s basketball arena for a campus vigil. Student body president Chandler Crean wiped away tears as the school chancellor said they couldn’t emerge unchanged from Tuesday’s shooting, but they could emerge stronger. He later said the university needs to use the shock of what happened to make the world better.

“What happened yesterday cannot happen again,” Crean said.

READ MORE: Slain North Carolina student hailed as hero for confronting campus shooter

The father of Howell’s longtime girlfriend said news that he tackled the shooter wasn’t surprising. Kevin Westmoreland, whose daughter Lauren dated Howell for nearly six years, said Howell was athletic and compassionate — and would have been a good firefighter or paramedic.

“If what happened in that room is what they say, I completely see Riley doing that,” Kevin Westmoreland said. “He was just the kind of person, if someone tripped and fell, he would be the first one to try to help them.”

He was “a big, muscular guy with a huge heart,” Howell’s family said in a statement Wednesday.

“He always was able to put others before himself and never hesitated to help anyone who needed it,” the statement read.

Howell was enrolled in a second semester of ROTC courses at UNC-Charlotte, though he wasn’t among those pursuing a career as a military officer, said Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, who runs the school’s Army ROTC program. Howell would have been taught in ROTC to seek cover if confronted by a gunman rather than fight, Smith said.

“But I just believe it’s inherent in those who take the class, based off of their backgrounds and their upbringing … that someone would actually sacrifice themselves for others,” Smith said.

___

Sarah Blake Morgan in Charlotte; Martha Waggoner and Emery P. Dalesio in Raleigh; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, contributed to this report.

Tom Foreman Jr. And Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stem cell donor with rare genetic makeup needed to save Saanich man after cancer returns

Jeremy Chow is half Canton Chinese, half British and needs a donor with a similar ethnic background

Victoria Humane Society needs volunteers after flood of puppies and kittens

Pregnant cats, dogs and their litters are in need of foster care

Tomato planting controversy inspires Victoria author’s book on transforming cities

Woman behind the Collinson street mural pens third book

New UVic student housing project before Saanich council tonight

Two new buildings would add almost 700 new student housing spaces

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Island teen Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island woman was discovered

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Most Read