One of the two UNC Charlotte students killed in a shooting on campus Tuesday evening was a native of Waynesville and a graduate of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville. 21-year-old Riley Howell is being hailed as a hero for rushing the suspected gunman during the shooting, preventing further loss of life.
At a press conference Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said Howell "took the assailant off his feet" when gunfire started inside a classroom on campus. Putney added that the suspected gunman may not have been disarmed otherwise. "Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process," Putney said. "But his sacrifice saved lives."
Howell transferred to UNC Charlotte last year after spending two years at A-B Tech. He graduated from T.C. Roberson High in 2016. Howell's mother is an employee at Valley Springs Middle School in Arden. A statement from Buncombe County schools confirmed counselors and a crisis team were at each school today, and will stay at each for as long as is needed. After graduating from Roberson, Howell spent two years at A-B Tech according to a statement from the school's vice president for student services Dr. Terry Brasier. "Like me, if you had an opportunity to meet Riley or interact with him, you would have been immediately struck with his positive and infectious energy for life and respect for others," Dr. Brasier said in his statement. "Our faculty and staff who knew Riley particularly are devastated and were not surprised to learn that he was a hero in this tragic event."
19-year-old Ellis Parlier of Midland, North Carolina was also killed in the shooting. Four others were injured. The suspect in the case, 22-year-old Trystan Andrew Terrell, had been a student at UNC Charlotte until last year according to school records. His grandfather, Paul Rold of Arlington, Texas, told the Associated Press that Terrell and his father moved to Charlotte from the Dallas area about two years ago after his mother died. Terrell never showed any interest in guns or other weapons his grandfather said, calling the news he may have been involved in a mass shooting ‘stunning.’ A vigil is planned for the victims on campus later today.
STATEMENTS FROM CURRENT AND FORMER STAFF MEMBERS AT T.C. ROBERSON HIGH SCHOOL (TCR)
“Riley was a student at TCR, and he graduated during my last year as principal in 2016. He was both athletic and studious, taking many honors and AP classes. I always remembered him as a kind student who always had a smile on his face. The staff at T.C. and all of our schools work to build strong relationships with our students. We are keenly aware of the extra supports we need to have in place during difficult times like this. Our Student Services department has a crisis team mobilized to assist at T.C for this reason.” -- Amy Rhoney, former T.C. Roberson Principal and current Director of Special Services.
“The violent and tragic passing of Riley Howell has touched the lives of everyone in our community. How could it not? I remember precisely where Riley sat in my classroom. I remember our conversations. I remember Riley's enthusiasm for life, infectious smile, and bright-eyed amiability. He was as easy to love as he so easily loved others. My heart breaks for his friends and family, and especially, his siblings. I can think of only one way to describe his passing-- heart-wrenching.” -- Ms. Tristen Plemmons, TCR English teacher
“It took a long, long time to get him here [to the cross country team] joining late in his final high school year, but Riley was an invaluable addition to the team. As I reflect on his character I remember that he was bright, independent, kind, and optimistic; he had a special affinity for the outdoors; his hallmarks were a big grin and a carefree spirit; and, his teammates loved and respected him. It was a privilege to be his coach.”--Andrew Devine, TCR Cross Country Coach
“The Roberson Community has been touched by tragedy today. Riley Howell lost his life saving others. Riley played soccer, ran cross country, but, more importantly, was a part of our greater Roberson family. He will be missed and remembered as an individual, who, in the moment of greatest peril, sacrificed for the lives of others. He lived his life in service of others and his light was extinguished way too soon. We join countless communities who have experienced the same violence in mourning one of our sons, one of our brothers, one of our students, one of our players, one of our own.”-- Josh Martin, TCR Soccer Coach
“Riley was an incredible young man (as so often seems to be the case when these senseless tragedies occur). If one tried to describe him, he was a lover of just about everything outdoors. Inside the building, he was an unfailingly kind person and for those of us lucky enough to call him a friend, he was fiercely loyal. He rarely had a frown upon his face, instead, he smiled and brought joy to those around him at all times. He was honest, especially with himself. When he made mistakes, he did not make excuses; he would just smile, shrug his shoulders, admit his mistake, and then do better. His giving spirit will be truly missed, and we were lucky to have him in our lives, however short a time that that might have been.”-- Brian Feid, TCR Social Studies Teacher