Crime & Courts

UNC Charlotte to launch ‘extensive’ external review after fatal shootings on campus

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois on Thursday announced plans for an independent, external review of response to the campus shooting where two students were killed and four were injured this week.

A former student has been charged with two counts of murder after Tuesday’s shooting inside a UNC Charlotte classroom. Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, was scheduled to appear in court for the first time Thursday afternoon but waived his right to appear before a judge.

Terrell was apprehended soon after police say he opened fire in a “Science, Technology and Society” class. Public defender Mike Kabakoff was appointed as Terrell’s attorney.

In a statement Thursday, Dubois said campus safety remains his top concern and that UNC Charlotte’s lockdown response to the shooting was immediate after law enforcement officials were notified.

The shooting took place on the last day of classes for UNC Charlotte, just as the campus was getting ready for a Waka Flocka Flame concert. The concert was canceled.

Dubois commended the bravery of first responders, who “were running toward the sound of gunshots and administering first aid to the injured and dying.”

Still, Dubois said he wants an “extensive” review “to look at what went well and to examine and address areas for improvement.”

A UNCC spokeswoman could not immediately provide details about the review.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney, too, has praised first responders. And on Wednesday, Putney called Howell a hero Wednesday, saying he tackled the shooter and knocked him down, likely saving lives.

All of the injured students are expected to recover, according to police and UNC Charlotte officials.

Howell’s funeral will be 5 p.m. Sunday in the Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska. Funeral arrangements for Parlier were not yet finalized Thursday afternoon.

The next hearing

After a brief hearing Thursday where Kabakoff appeared before Judge Ronald Chapman on Terrell’s behalf, a spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office said the next appearance may be May 15, for a bond hearing.

North Carolina law leaves bond decisions in the hands of judges. Bonds in first-degree murder cases, while rare, are not prohibited.

But, if Terrell is indicted on murder charges before May 15, his case will be transferred to superior court and his court date would change, said district attorney spokeswoman Meghan McDonald.

In addition to the two murder charges for the deaths of 21-year-old Riley Howell and 19-year-old Ellis Parlier, Terrell has been charged with four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, discharging a firearm on educational property and possessing a gun on educational property, according to jail records.

The rest of the students in the class and lecturer Adam Johnson managed to escape, joining dozens of other people on campus who hid or barricaded themselves in safe spaces to survive.


Why we named the UNCC shooting suspect

After the fatal shooting April 30 at UNC Charlotte, some people on social media urged The Observer and other media outlets not to name the suspect or show his face. They argued that mass shooters seek notoriety, and news outlets should not reward them with it.

We understand and appreciate this sentiment, and debated in the newsroom about whether to name the suspect. In the end, we decided that any harm of naming him and showing his image was outweighed by the public’s right and need to know a key fact from an event of such huge public importance.

At The Observer, we believe it is important, almost all of the time, to give our readers all the relevant information we can on news of our city, region and state. We believe that the public deserves to know what we know, and we don’t want to hide information from them, except in certain cases where it could harm an innocent person, such as a rape victim. The logic that would lead us to withhold the suspect’s name in this case could be used to argue for withholding other salient facts from other stories.

By not naming him, we arguably are not holding him accountable.

We understand that some readers will not want to see his name or face; many other readers will.

It’s a difficult issue. We agree that the suspect should not be glorified or given a spotlight. And so we have intentionally not run his photograph prominently, in print or online.

At The Observer, we constantly make judgment calls. In this case, we believe the people’s right to know facts of public importance overrides concerns about giving the suspect undeserved attention.

Returning home

In other developments:

  • CMPD officers in four marked police cars escorted the vehicle with Howell’s body to his hometown of Waynesville on Thursday morning.
  • The family of Ellis “Reed” Parlier, one of the two victims, held a private vigil at a church in Matthews on Wednesday evening.

  • University officials said 7,500 people attended a campus vigil Wednesday night. UNC Charlotte officially returned to standard operations later that night, although the final exam schedule has been shifted due to the shooting.
  • Graduation ceremonies will take place mostly as scheduled, according to the university.
  • UNCC on Wednesday launched a crowdfunding group “to support the victims and the UNC Charlotte community during this time of tragedy.” Donations of any amount may be made online at the UNCC Niner Nation Unites page, or by calling 704-687-7211.

  • Two students who worked with Howell at UNCC’s Housing and Residential Life office have set up a GoFundMe for his family, raising over $20,000 in its first 24 hours.

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Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.