‘His sacrifice saved lives’: Student killed on Charlotte campus confronted suspect, police chief says
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the two students who died Tuesday evening in a shooting on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus tackled the shooter and saved other lives, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday.
The university identified the students who were killed as Ellis Parlier, 19, of Midland, and Riley Howell, 21, of Waynesville. Four other students were injured. Former student Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, was taken into custody minutes after the shooting in a UNC Charlotte classroom.
Howell, an athletically built young man, “took the assailant off his feet” before campus police officers arrived, Putney told reporters at an afternoon briefing. Howell was apparently the second student to be fatally shot, he said.
These are the victims of the University Of North Carolina At Charlotte shooting:
• Riley Howell, 21
• Ellis "Reed" Parlier, 19 https://t.co/3NxcCVgwdM
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) May 1, 2019
Howell “did exactly what we train people to do — you’re going to run, you’re going to hide and shield, or you’re going to face the assailant,” Putney said. “He did the latter (and) his sacrifice saved lives.”
UNC Charlotte police also credited Sgt. Richard Gundacker with quickly subduing Terrell, who appeared to acknowledge his guilt as he was led into CMPD police headquarters Tuesday evening.
“I just went into his classroom and shot the guy,” he appears to say in response to a reporter’s question that was captured on video by WBTV, The Charlotte Observer’s news partner.
Investigators haven’t found a motive for the shootings, Putney told reporters, and they apparently didn’t target specific people. “The randomness is what’s most concerning,” he said.
But the shooter was familiar with the Kennedy Building, where the shootings occurred, Putney said. “The choice of that building was by design,” he said.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, police are still trying to determine a motive in yesterday's shooting attack on a college campus. pic.twitter.com/eplIVBThpk
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) May 1, 2019
The handgun used in the shootings was bought legally, the chief said. He said he didn’t know of any mental impairment that had been detected in Terrell.
UNCC also identified the four injured students as: Rami Alramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudia Arabia; Sean Dehart, 20, of Apex; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Drew Pescaro, 19, of Apex.
With a suspect in custody following the shooting at UNC Charlotte, investigators continued to piece together how and why the students were shot during a class on science and technology. Campus police officers took Terrell into custody in the Kennedy Hall classroom within minutes of the 5:40 p.m. shooting on the last day of spring classes.
“This is still the initial phases of an investigation. It’s going to take a while to figure out all that happened and what’s more, why,” Putney said.
"This is the worst day in the history of UNC Charlotte.”
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) May 1, 2019
A campus lockdown was lifted before midnight, but exams were canceled through Sunday and non-essential employees were told to stay home Wednesday.
Three of the four injured students were in critical condition. Pescaro was among the injured but had since been released from the hospital, according to his fraternity and the UNCC student newspaper.
Parlier, one of the students who died, was a 2017 graduate of the Central Academy of Technology and Arts in Union County, a school district spokeswoman said. A friend of his family told The Observer the family would have no comment.
A relative of Howell’s also asked for privacy for his family.
UPDATE: Riley Howell, a student killed in the UNC Charlotte attack, "took the fight" to the gunman: "He gave his life in the process, but his sacrifice saved lives." https://t.co/69CNctNXtn
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 1, 2019
Howell graduated from T.C. Roberson High School in 2016, Buncombe County Schools spokeswoman Stacia Harris confirmed. His mother works at Valley Springs Middle School, Harris said, and the district sent counselors to provide emotional support at both schools Wednesday.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Howell played soccer and ran cross country at T.C. Roberson. He majored in environmental studies at UNCC, Chancellor Philip Dubois told WBT Wednesday morning.
Xenna Smith, a high school friend who attends N.C. State University, described Howell as a selfless “ray of sunshine” who had a way of making everyone feel like a friend.
“He was always cracking jokes. He was always smiling about something and making people around him laugh,” Smith said.
The shooter was armed with a handgun but was “not somebody on our radar,” campus police Chief Jeff Baker told reporters. Baker would not say whether the suspect targeted certain students or fired at random.
Terrell has no previous criminal record in North Carolina or Texas, where he had previously lived, according to state records. He has a first appearance in court scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
— Alex Giles WBTV (@AlexGilesNews) May 1, 2019
He’s charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a firearm on educational property and possession of a gun on educational property, according to jail records.
Public records show that Terrell lived in an apartment complex in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, but several residents told The Observer he lived in an apartment in NoDa. Terrell had previously lived in Mansfield, Texas, near Dallas-Fort Worth, records show. Records show that he registered to vote in Mecklenburg County in December 2014.
Terrell attended Central Piedmont Community College from fall 2015 through spring 2018, studying for an associate’s degree in science, before transferring to UNCC, a CPCC spokesman said.
WBTV reported that Terrell had withdrawn from all classes at UNCC last semester, except for the class in which the shootings took place.
The suspect’s grandfather, Paul Rold of Arlington, Texas, said Terrell and his father moved to Charlotte from the Dallas area about two years ago after his mother died. Terrell taught himself French and Portuguese with the help of a language learning program his grandfather bought him and was attending UNC-Charlotte, Rold said. But Terrell never showed any interest in guns or other weapons, and the news he may have been involved in a mass shooting was stunning, said Rold, who had not heard about the Charlotte attack before being contacted by an Associated Press reporter.
WBTV, quoting the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, tweeted that the department had issued Terrell a gun purchase permit last Oct. 23 after passing criminal history and mental health background checks. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Tonya Rivens told The Observer she could not confirm that information, citing state confidentiality laws for permit holders.
The shooting took place inside Kennedy Hall, on the east end of campus. The building is home to UNCC’s Center for Teaching and Learning, which focuses on innovative teaching methods. The high-tech classroom is centrally located in the building, with big glass windows that peer inside Room 236.
A memorial has started outside of the Kennedy building on the #UNCC campus, which is where the deadly shooting took place inside one of the classrooms where 2 students were killed.
— Chandler Morgan (@Chandler_TV) May 1, 2019
Anthropology instructor Adam Patrick Johnson tweeted that it occurred during his class, LBST 2213: Science, Technology & Society.
“My students are so special to me and I am devastated,” he said on Twitter. Students were conducting team presentations as part of the lesson at the time, he said.
UNC Charlotte describes itself as an urban research university with more than 29,000 students from 85 countries, and is part of the UNC public university system. It offers undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.
Dubois called Tuesday “the worst day in the history of UNC Charlotte.”
“This shakes us to our very core,” he said.