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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach approves Pheasant Glen zoning amendment

Majority of residents who spoke at public hearing endorsed proposed amendment bylaw

Centre withdraws from cell tower project in Qualicum Beach

TELUS plans to continue to look at plans to improve cellphone reception in the area

Qualicum Beach council voices support for Ballenas track upgrade

Town still not ready to provide dollar amount without further information

Resident discovers five discarded hog heads in a ditch in Coombs

WARNING: Graphic image may be upsetting to some readers

RDN budget includes unexpected $1.5 million for sewer pipe replacement

Pipe corrosion at Departure Bay discovered in December

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

UPDATE: Lockdown lifted at Nanaimo high school following threats

Nearby elementary school was in hold-and-secure

Most Read