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UNC Charlotte commencement honors students killed in shooting

The University of North Carolina-Charlotte honored at its commencement ceremonies this weekend two students who were killed in a shooting on campus on April 30. Riley Howell, 21, and Ellis Reed Parlier, 19, and four others were injured when a gunman opened fire in a classroom. 

At Saturday's commencement ceremony, Howell's family accepted an honorary degree on his behalf. The auditorum gave them a standing ovation, CBS Charlotte affiliate WBTV reporter Anne Marie Hagerty tweeted

Police said Howell confronted the gunman and fought back, helping officers capture the suspect. Trystan Terrell, 22, has been charged with the murder of Howell and Parlier and the attempted murder of the other students.    

"He took the fight to the assailant," Charlotte-Mecklenberg police chief Kerr Putney said after the shooting. "He took the assailant off his feet. And then the heroes that we have here were able to apprehend him."  

Hailed a hero, UNCC shooting victim Riley Howell "stood out"

One of the students injured, Emily Houpt, was honored at Saturday's commencement ceremony. She also received a standing ovation.

"We're going to make a special presentation for Emily," UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois told WBTV ahead of the ceremony.  "We want to make sure she's properly honored."  

The school devoted several minutes to remember Howell and Parlier at Friday's ceremony, according to WBTV. The ceremony included special songs decided to the students and the school also announced donated funds to create $1 million in scholarships in the names of Howell and Parlier. 

The graduates wore white ribbons on their green gowns. For some, it was the first time returning to campus since the shooting, WBTV reports. 

The university planned to have heightened security at the commencement events. 

"We already had a security plan, we enhanced that security plan," UNCC Police Chief Baker said of commencement security, which will include magnetometers, wanding and bag checking. "Similar to what you see at the airport," Baker said. "Everybody's going through that."