Slain North Carolina college student confronted gunman, saved lives, says police chief

VIDEO: REUTERS
Students and faculty file out of buildings with their hands up during a lockdown after a shooting on the campus of University of North Carolina Charlotte in University City, Charlotte, on April 30, 2019.
Students and faculty file out of buildings with their hands up during a lockdown after a shooting on the campus of University of North Carolina Charlotte in University City, Charlotte, on April 30, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
The suspect was not immediately identified by police, which set up a media staging area near the school.
The suspect was not immediately identified by police, which set up a media staging area near the school.PHOTO: AFP

CHARLOTTE (REUTERS) - A 21-year-old student killed in a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte saved some of his classmates’ lives by charging the gunman and attempting to disarm him, the city’s top police official said on Wednesday (May 1).

Environmental studies student Riley Howell of Waynesville, North Carolina, one of two students killed in the Tuesday shooting, played a key role in ending the attack by a former student, said Kerr Putney, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney told a news conference.

“He’s an athletically built young man and he took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so,” said Putney, a UNC Charlotte alumnus. “He took the assailant off his feet.”

The other student killed in the shooting was Ellis Parlier, 19, officials said. Four wounded students were identified as Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean DeHart, 20; Emily Houpt, 23; and Rami Alramadhan, 20.

Police in Charlotte charged former UNC Charlotte student Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, with two counts of murder and four of attempted murder but offered no explanation for a motive.

They said he used a legally purchased handgun.

 

Terrell was familiar with the classroom building where the attack occurred but it was unclear if he knew the students targeted, Putney said.

“We can’t really discern the why just yet,” Putney said.“The randomness is what is most concerning.” 

He added that police believe Terrell acted alone.

Terrell is due to make an initial court appearance on Thursday, jail records show.

The school’s chancellor, Phil Dubois, said all of the wounded were expected to recover, with one already released from the hospital.

Houpt is due to graduate from the school later this month, said Dubois, adding that the school’s commencement ceremonies would go on as scheduled next week.

Final exams have been postponed and the school will consider allowing professors to cancel them, Dubois said.

Students spent a harrowing night as police searched door-to-door for other suspects, not giving the all-clear until almost dawn on Wednesday.

The shooting started in a classroom at about 5.40pm on Tuesday, police said. Tristan Field, a student who witnessed the shooting, told CBS News as many as 50 students tried to escape through two doors.

“A chair fell in front of the door, so people were tripping over that, like, trying to climb over it,” he said.

“Some people fell down. It was like water through a funnel but wasn’t fast enough.”

A vigil was planned at the school for 6pm EDT on Wednesday (6am on Thursday, Singapore time).

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has more than 26,500 students.

The deadliest mass shooting on a US college campus took place at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, in April 2007, when a student killed 32 people and then himself.