Classmates Describe ROTC Cadet Who Gave Life to Save UNC Charlotte Students

May 03, 2019May 03, 2019

On April 30, a young man opened fire in a classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He killed two students and injured for more.

According to the New York Times, investigators still don’t know the motive of their suspect, former UNC student 22-year-old Tristyn Andrew Terrell, who was not into guns, social media, or politics — three factors often blamed for mass shootings.

(Editor’s note: The spelling of Tristyn’s first name has varied in reports, and sometimes his last name as reported as “Fields.”)

But what is emerging in the aftermath of the attack is the actions of one hero, a 21-year-old ROTC cadet named Riley Howell.

According to NPR, witnesses said Howell sprang into action once the shooter opened fire. Unarmed himself, the student’s only course of action was to charge at the gunman.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said that Howell “took the suspect off his feet” and “absolutely” saved lives in that classroom. Police arrived shortly later and disarmed the gunman.

Putney said Howell "did exactly what we train people to do — you're either going to run, you're going to hide and shield, or you're going to take the fight to the assailant. Having no place to run and hide, he did the last."

The young man kept the attack from becoming far worse, but he lost his life in the process.

“His sacrifice saved lives," the police chief said.

Students mourned the loss of Howell and 19-year-old Ellis Parlier, who was also killed.

Fellow soccer player Gerry Lopez said, “If you knew Riley for a second, he was your friend. He was a leader. And not only on the soccer field — he was a leader all around. He was a good young man,” The Mountaineer reported.

His grandmother, Nancy Blevins, proudly said, “He loved being able to do heavy lifting, and he was very strong. That served him well when he was able to tackle the shooter in his classroom.”

“His final act to save the other students; that was pure Riley,” she added. “He would have done nothing less.”

“He never would have turned and run.”

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