People gather across from the campus of UNC Charlotte after a shooting incident at the school Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Slain North Carolina student hailed as hero for confronting campus gunman

The student did what police train people to do in active shooter situations

A North Carolina college student tackled a gunman who opened fire in his classroom, saving others’ lives but losing his own in the process, police said Wednesday.

Riley Howell, 21, was among the students gathered for end-of-year presentations in an anthropology class at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte when a gunman with a pistol began shooting students. Howell and another student were killed; four others were wounded.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Howell “took the assailant off his feet,” but was fatally wounded. He said Howell did what police train people to do in active shooter situations.

“You’re either going to run, you’re going to hide and shield, or you’re going to take the fight to the assailant. Having no place to run and hide, he did the last. But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney said. “Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.”

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 Lauren was with Riley, he would step in front of a train for her if he had to,” Westmoreland said. “I didn’t realize it might come to that for somebody else.”

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

In a statement, Howell’s family remembered him as a big-hearted person who was friends with everyone.

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

The motive wasn’t immediately clear. Suspect Trystan Andrew Terrell had been enrolled at the school but withdrew during the current 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 in handcuffs into a law enforcement building.

Terrell, 22, was charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder and other charges.

Putney said the suspect didn’t appear to target any particular person but did deliberately pick the building where it happened. He wouldn’t elaborate on why. Authorities said the anthropology class was fairly large, without being specific about how many students were present. Putney said the handgun used in the shooting was purchased legally.

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 Wednesday.

“His dad hasn’t a clue about what happened, or why it happened,” said Rold, of Arlington, Texas.

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

Rold said the Charlotte campus shooting is the latest in a long line of mass shootings that won’t end until laws reduce the volume of guns readily available.

“It’s unfortunate that in our society it can be so easily perpetrated. He has no background in guns or gun collecting, gun interest,” he said. “And how, in a short period of time, he was able to secure these weapons —legally, illegally, however— is the problem until Congress does something. If Sandy Hook, if Las Vegas, if Florida and these multiple incidents like yesterday can’t get them to move, if they’re more interested in reelection than the value of human life, this thing will continue.”

READ MORE: Shots fired at a North Carolina university campus

A campus vigil for the victims was planned for Wednesday evening. In a news release, 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 in the attack. Those injured were Sean Dehart, 20, and Drew Pescaro, 19, both of Apex; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Rami Alramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudia Arabia.

After the shooting, students and faculty scrambled to find safe spaces on the campus of nearly 30,000 students, enduring a lengthy lockdown.

In a class a few rooms away from where the shooting happened, Krysta Dean was about to present a senior research project when she heard someone scream “shooter.” The anthropology major huddled behind a table with her classmates.

“When I was sitting there on the floor, thinking that I might get a bullet in my head, my biggest fear was somebody’s reality. And there are parents that are never going to be able to hug their children again,” she said.

____

Tom Foreman Jr. And Sarah Blake Morgan, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Abbotsford Police ‘speed watchers’ are tops in province

Volunteers record highest increase in patrol hours in ICBC challenge

UPDATE: Abbotsford woman reported missing from Chilliwack has been found

Alexis Neill, 26, located safe and sound, police say

Event supports women’s centre that is at risk of having to move

Abbotsford women’s recovery program holds annual Victory Walk

Son of slain former Hells Angel is one of two men sentenced for crime spree

Pair’s 2017 series of robberies included convenience store in Abbotsford

The Offspring and Sum 41 announce show in Abbotsford

Bands play Abbotsford Centre on Nov. 30 as part of Canadian leg of current tour

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

VIDEO: Organization’s stolen wheelchair van recovered on backroad near Hope

Wheelchair accessible van is only transportation for some people in Hope area

Officials say 50 Oppenheimer Park residents have agreed to leave, as deadline looms

Residents have been told they must be gone by 6 p.m. on Aug. 21

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

‘Do the right thing,’ implores sister of South Surrey stabbing victim

IHIT confirms male arrested in connection with Paul Prestbakmo’s death no longer in custody

Most Read