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Student killed in UNCC shooting praised for fighting gunman

UNCC victim died fighting gunman

The two students who were killed in a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have been identified as 19-year-old Ellis "Reed" Parlier and 21-year-old Riley Howell. Police on Wednesday hailed Howell as a hero for having the courage to fight the gunman. 

Howell "took the fight to the assailant" and "took the assailant off his feet," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief of Police Kerr Putney said at a news conference. If it wasn't for what Howell did, he said the assailant "may not have been disarmed."

"Unfortunately he gave his life in the process, but his sacrifice saved lives," Putney said.

Howell was from Waynesville, North Carolina, a city in the western part of the state near the junction where the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains meet. A student athlete who ran cross-country and played soccer in high school, Howell also participated in Evironthons — events designed to raise awareness about climate issues.

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Riley Howell WBTV/Handout

A close friend who spoke with the Asheville Citizen Times said he and Howell regularly hiked and camped together during the summers when they'd return to the area.

Matthew Westmoreland also has fond memories of Howell. The photographer was a high school classmate and friend who says the images he took of Howell are helping him process his death. 

"Looking over these pictures has been more helpful than I thought," Westmoreland said.

Howell's family issued a statement on Wednesday, calling him a "big muscular guy with a huge heart." "He was the kind of person who you knew would take care of you the moment you met him, and he always did. He radiated love and always will," the statement read.

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Riley Howell in a crowd a students.  Matthew Westmoreland

Coaches at Howell's alma mater, T.C. Roberson High School, remember him for his empathy and optimism. The school observed a moment of silence for Howell and is flying its flags at half-staff.

Parlier was from the Charlotte area, growing up in Midland, North Carolina. He graduated from Central Academy of Technology and Arts in 2017, where he was an honors student and focused his studies on information technology. The school is flying its flags at half-staff to honor Parlier's memory.

Ellis "Reed" Parlier
Ellis "Reed" Parlier WBTV/HANDOUT

Parlier had a passion for video games so his interest in computers came as no surprise, UNCC sophomore Jeremy Shue told CBS News. Shue met Parlier in sixth grade and the two quickly became friends. He remembers Parlier as being an empathetic, caring person who was always willing to talk. "He was really funny and super nice," Shue said. "I'll remember him as a passionate guy who was a great friend and resource."

Drew Pescaro, 19, Sean Dehart, 20, Emily Houpt, 23, and Rami Alramadhan, 20, were injured in the attack, according to the university. The student newspaper identified Pescaro as its sports writer and said the 19-year-old is out of surgery and in stable condition.

Chancellor Philip Dubois said he has visited Pescaro, Houpt and Alramadhan, who is a Saudi student and freshman at the university. He said the three students and their families are "all doing OK." He said he didn't have a chance to talk to Dehart, who was released from the hospital on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Trystan Terrell, 22, was charged with two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder.

A motive is not yet apparent in the shooting that took place on the last day of classes and saw the scene in a classroom turn from confusion to chaos, according to a sophomore who said he was there. That student, Tristan Field, believes the shooter sat with the other students for about 10 minutes before opening fire.

"All of a sudden, without warning, no one yelled, no nothing. This gun started ringing out," Field said.

As many as 50 students tried to exit through a single door, he said. 

"It was absolute panic. A chair fell in front of the door, so people were tripping over that, like, trying to climb over it," Field said. "Some people fell down. It was like water through a funnel, but it wasn't fast enough."

A vigil was expected to be held on Wednesday. UNCC's class president is expected to speak at the event, along with a representative of the school's Army ROTC Corps of cadets, as Howell was an MS1 cadet freshman.

Chip Reid contributed to this report.

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