The Charlotte, North Carolina community is reeling after a horrific shooting broke out Tuesday evening at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, when a male suspect opened fire on several students, killing two and injuring four others — three remain in critical condition.
The deadly incident began just before 6 p.m., ahead of a scheduled Waka Flocka Flame concert to mark the final day of classes. The 22-year-old suspect began his rampage by entering a liberal studies classroom in the school’s Kennedy building and shooting indiscriminately at students, who were giving their final presentations, CNN reported.
While authorities are still looking into the shooter’s possible motives, one hero story has already emerged in the wake of the vicious attack.
Riley Howell, 21, was shot point-blank after he charged the gunman in an attempt to thwart the deadly rampage, according to the police account provided to Howell’s family.
“Early reports say Riley chose to fight and was fatally shot while attempting to physically confront and stop the shooter. This selfless act would have delayed the shooter giving police more time to respond and prevented further deaths,” Buncombe County Rep. Brian Turner shared in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Riley Howell will be remembered for his courage, for the life he lived, and for the lives he saved.”
“He did such a heroic thing,” Riley’s aunt, Morgan Howell Moylan, told CNN. “It was absolutely no surprise. In fact, I have four children who so look up to him. Every one of them said, ‘Of course, he was the hero — 100 percent — of course he’d run toward the shooter.’”
“He was everybody’s protector,” she added. “You felt safe when you were with Riley.”
Moylan told CNN that Howell grew up caring for his three younger siblings on his family’s farm in Waynesville, North Carolina. He would often work out with first responders and had plans to serve in the military after graduating from college.
“He was the kind of person who you knew would take care of you the moment you met him, and he always did,” his family said in a statement shared with local news stations. “He radiated love and always will. As a friend said, ‘Beautiful souls like Riley are always with us in the way they made life more beautiful.’”
Police Chief Kerr Putney also praised Howell’s heroic actions.
“His sacrifice saved lives,” Putney said.
Ellis Parlier, 19, was also killed Tuesday. The university 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.
Police identified the 22-year-old suspect, who was taken into custody without incident. He has been charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm of educational property and discharging a firearm on educational property.
Footage of the arrest shows the suspect smiling at the cameras as police led him away in handcuffs.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Chief Putney vowed to “leave no stone unturned” in the investigation. Putney also noted that the incident is “personal,” as he is a UNCC graduate.
Please pray for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the UNCC community in the wake of this heinous act of violence.