Hero Student Jumps on Gunman in University of North Carolina Shooting, Dies Saving His Classmates

riley howell

Two people were tragically killed Tuesday night when suspect Trystan Terrell opened fire at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus.

Philip Dubois, the UNCC Chancellor, has confirmed that the victims have been identified as 19-year-old Ellis Parlier of Midland, North Carolina, and 21-year-old Riley Howell, of Waynesville, North Carolina. Four others were injured.

Howell is now being hailed a hero for his courageous efforts to stop the shooter while sacrificing his own life in his final act. He reportedly confronted and jumped on the gunman when he opened fire in the classroom, just before being fatally shot.

“Riley Howell was an ROTC cadet and on his way to be an officer,” a fellow classmate tweeted. “He promised to fight for his country and lost his life in a heroic act. He was said to have jumped on the gunman…..Rest easy to a hero named Riley.”

Media outlets across the nation are also praising Howell for his bold act of bravery.

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“Hero:  A person who is admired, or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities,” tweeted WSOC-TV news reporter DaShawn Brown. “Sources tell @WSOC, Riley Howell tried to jump on the gunman at #UNCC when he was shot. Riley Howell is a hero.”

North Carolina State Representative Brian Turner recognized the military cadet on Facebook, crediting him for selflessly choosing to ‘fight’ and thus delaying the gunman’s further destruction.

“Part of the alert that the school sent out yesterday said ‘Run, Hide, Fight.'” wrote Turner. “Early reports say Riley chose to fight and was fatally shot while attempting to physically confront and stop the shooter. This selfless act would have delayed the shooter giving police more time to respond and prevented [sic] further deaths.”

“Riley Howell will be remembered for his courage, for the life he lived, and for the lives he saved,” he continued. “I ask you to join me in keeping Riley’s family in your prayers.”

Friends, family, coaches, and teachers alike are mourning the loss of a young man who had the biggest of hearts and a bright future ahead of him.

Howell’s soccer coach, Josh Martin, said he spent this morning “crying his eyes out” upon hearing the devastating news.

“You can’t really put into words what a good human being he was,” shared Martin. “There aren’t words to describe how we’re all feeling. This is tragic.”

UNCC lowered the flags on campus to half-staff and observed a moment of silence today in his honor.

The 21-year-old’s girlfriend of five years, Lauren Westmoreland, is still in shock over the death of her high school sweetheart and the man she planned to marry.


Friends told WLOS-TV of their future plans to wed, calling them the “perfect” and “cutest couple of all time.”

“I just don’t really have any words,” Westmoreland posted on Facebook. “I keep hoping and hoping I will wake up from this awful dream, but I know that I won’t. I don’t know what to do, but I thank you for everyone who is reaching out to his family and my family and me. Keep us in your thoughts for the dark days to come.”


Please keep Riley Howell’s family and friends in your prayers, that God may restore peace and hope in their hearts amidst this unthinkable loss.

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.