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A college student killed during a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this week lost his life trying to stop the shooter, police say.
When a gunman walked into a classroom on Tuesday and opened fire, Riley Howell, a 21-year-old junior, ran to the shooter and tackled him to the ground, CNN reports, citing police. Howell was shot and killed rushing the shooter, but he was the “first and foremost hero” in helping authorities end the attack, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told the network. An officer was able to disarm the shooter after Howell’s brave move, according to police.
“He took the fight to the assailant,” Putney said. “Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives doing so.”
Howell and 19-year-old Reed Parlier were shot and killed after 22-year-old Trystan Terrell, a former UNC Charlotte student, allegedly walked into a classroom and opened fire. Four others were also injured, three of them critically, NBC News reports. All are reportedly expected to survive.
Howell’s aunt, Morgan Howell Moylan, said that her nephew, who was known as “everybody’s protector,” was shot “point blank,” according to CNN.
“He did such a heroic thing,” she said.
Natalie Henry-Howell, Howell's mother, told “Today” that they are “beyond proud” of their son’s sacrifice, NBC News reports.
“We are just beyond proud of what he was able to do. While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter,” she said, adding that he “wouldn’t have been able to live with himself” if he hadn’t acted.
Law enforcement honored Howell with a police escort on Thursday, as his body was brought back to his hometown of Waynesville, USA Today reports.
A motive for the shooting has yet to be uncovered. One student who was in the building when the attack started reported that Terrell was silent before he opened fire.
“He just started shooting,” Tristan Field, 19, told NBC News.
Terrell has since been charged with two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder, NBC News reports.
Tuesday’s shooting left the community stunned, with Philip Dubois, chancellor of the university, calling it “the worst day in the history of UNC Charlotte.” Final exams have been canceled, but graduation ceremonies will proceed as normal in the coming weeks, according to NBC News.
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