University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting

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University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting
Ucity
An aerial view of the UNCC campus
LocationUniversity of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
Coordinates35°18′21.5″N 80°43′51.4″W / 35.305972°N 80.730944°W / 35.305972; -80.730944Coordinates: 35°18′21.5″N 80°43′51.4″W / 35.305972°N 80.730944°W / 35.305972; -80.730944
DateApril 30, 2019; 57 days ago (2019-04-30)
5:40 p.m[1] (EDT)
Attack type
School shooting
WeaponsGlock 17 9mm pistol
Deaths2
Non-fatal injuries
4
AccusedTrystan Andrew Terrell

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting was a shooting that occurred at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on April 30, 2019. The shooting, which occurred on the last day of classes for the spring semester, sent six people to the hospital, two of whom were dead upon arrival, and left three others in critical condition.[2][3] The shooting occurred inside a classroom in the Woodford A. Kennedy Building (known simply as Kennedy to most students and faculty) while students were giving a final presentation.[4] One suspect, Trystan Andrew Terrell, was taken into police custody.[3][5]

Events[edit]

The shooting occurred during the last day of classes for the spring semester,[3][6] at around 5:40 p.m. local time, according to university officials.[1] Around that time, the suspected gunman entered Room 236 in the Kennedy Building, where approximately 60 students enrolled in "Science, Technology, & Society," a liberal studies course on the anthropology and philosophy of science, were delivering their final group presentations.[7][8][9] The classroom, with a level floor and 14 separate tables,[7] was designed to accommodate approximately 100 students,[9] and had both a front and a rear entrance, according to survivor Rami Al-Ramadhan, who had been seated towards the front of the room.[10] The course instructor was Adam Johnson, a professor in the university's anthropology department.[11] Johnson, who had himself done his graduate school work in anthropology from UNC Charlotte, had been teaching at the university since 2017.[12] He had recently accepted a teaching position in Arizona and was in his final semester at UNC Charlotte.[11]

The first presentation began at around 5:33 p.m. local time, with each group having been assigned to produce a 10-minute video on their chosen topic.[7][9] According to Johnson, who had been seated at a table taking notes and who did not hear a door open,[7] the suspected gunman then "burst into" the classroom from the left of the room and opened fire with a pistol.[9][13] According to Al-Ramadhan, the suspected gunman opened the front door and smiled before firing his weapon at random, showing no other reaction.[10] Another survivor, Joshua Ayers, gave a different account, saying the suspected gunman "slammed the door open and produced a pistol" before walking towards a particular table and firing his weapon, specifically targeting the students seated there.[14] As the classroom emptied in panic, Johnson quickly moved towards the other door and held it open to allow his students to exit. Pausing to help a student who had fallen, he led some of his students to an anthropology department office in Barnard Hall, located to the east of the Kennedy Building.[12] They barricaded themselves inside the office, after which the anthropology department chair called 911.[12][11][9] Other students who escaped took shelter in Prospector Hall, to the north of Kennedy, while others sheltered in their vehicles or in their residences.[9] As the suspected gunman continued firing, student Riley Howell tackled him and knocked him to the floor while yelling "go, go, go!" to his classmates, according to Al-Ramadhan.[15][10] Howell, whose actions gave other students time to escape the room without injury,[10][12][9] was shot at least three times, with the final bullet, which killed him, entering his jawbone by his right ear and traveling into his brain. According to Howell's parents, authorities told them their son had tackled the suspected gunman so forcefully he later complained of internal injuries.[7] The suspected gunman subsequently told police detectives that Howell's tackling him had caused him to stop firing.[15] After the suspected gunman had emptied his gun, he "...laid the gun down, and sat on the ground," according to Johnson.[12] The suspected gunman then responded to a victim who had asked him to stop shooting, stating "I'm done."[12]

UNC Charlotte police logged the initial report of the shooting at 5:43 p.m.[16] At 5:50 p.m., UNC Charlotte's Office of Emergency Management alerted students via Niner Alerts on Twitter, saying "Shots reported near Kennedy. Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately."[17] At the time the shooting was reported, UNC Charlotte police chief Jeff Baker and around 14 of his officers were reviewing security plans for a Waka Flocka Flame concert scheduled to be held on campus that evening; according to Baker, "when we heard this call come out we all converged [on the Kennedy Building] almost immediately."[18] UNC Charlotte Police Sergeant Richard Gundacker was the first of the officers to enter the building.[19] According to an affidavit submitted to a magistrate, Gundacker entered Room 236 and yelled to the survivors to identify the suspected gunman, who then identified himself.[14] Gundacker, who prior to joining the UNC Charlotte Police had retired from the New York City Police Department in 2015 as a detective, was able to disarm the suspected gunman,[20] recovering the Glock pistol he had used along with multiple gun magazines in a black leather bag.[14]

Ambulances arrived on the scene by 5:55 p.m. along with additional law enforcement resources. The suspected gunman was taken into police custody by 6:15 p.m.[21] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and SWAT teams were securing buildings on campus by 6:35 p.m., with the suspected gunman identified as a male student at UNCC at 6:55 p.m.[21] Governor Roy Cooper was briefed about the shooting by 7:11 p.m.[21] By 7:30 p.m., the suspected gunman, who had been identified as Trystan A. Terrell, had been brought to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Jail, with the CMPD declaring the campus secure at 7:40 p.m.[21] UNC Charlotte remained on lockdown until around 10:51 p.m.[21] The UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Departments established a family reunification center at the Harris Teeter in University City.[22]

Victims[edit]

List of casualties
Killed:

Wounded:

According to the UNC Charlotte police chief two victims were killed, three were in critical condition, and one sustained non-life-threatening injuries.[3] The two victims who were killed were reportedly white males.[25] On May 1, 2019, the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Phillip Dubois, informed media the victims in critical condition had undergone surgery.[13]

The president of the Lambda Delta chapter of Alpha Tau Omega announced via the fraternity's Twitter that one of their members, Drew Pescaro, was injured during the shooting and was under medical supervision at Carolinas Medical Center.[26][3][27] A shooting victim who was later identified as Pescaro was reportedly transported by a UNCC police sergeant to Atrium Health University City and was later transported by a medic to Carolinas Medical Center.[28] According to Pescaro, the police officers who first attended to him after the shooting decided there wasn't enough time to call an ambulance, "so they just picked me up by my legs and arms, and put me in the back of a cop car and took me to the closest hospital."[29]

On May 1, 2019, the university released the names of the victims, all of whom were current students.[13] The two students who were killed were 19-year-old Ellis Parlier and 21-year-old Riley Howell. The others injured, besides 19-year-old Pescaro, were 20-year-old Sean DeHart, 20-year-old Rami Al-Ramadhan, and 23-year old Emily Houpt. All of the students were North Carolinians except for Al-Ramadhan, who is an international student from Saudi Arabia;[23] and Sean DeHart, who is a Connecticuter.[30] Later that day, DeHart was discharged from hospital, while Pescaro, Houpt and Al-Ramadhan remained hospitalized, with Pescaro reported to be in stable condition following surgery.[31] Al-Ramadhan, who had been hit by two bullets, one grazing an arm and another hitting his stomach, was discharged from hospital on May 2.[10] The bullet that hit Pescaro entered his back about an inch from his spine and pierced his abdomen, just missing his stomach and liver.[29] After multiple surgeries, Pescaro was discharged from Carolinas Medical Center (Main) in Charlotte on May 20, but was readmitted to a hospital near his home on May 22 to treat a related infection. He was finally discharged from hospital on May 26 and returned to his home in Apex.[32]

Parlier was from Midland and was a graduate of Central Academy of Technology and Arts. Howell was from Waynesville and was a graduate of T. C. Roberson High School, where he had run cross country and played on the soccer team. Howell was an environmental studies major at UNC Charlotte. Per his family, he dreamt of becoming a firefighter and put off military school for college. Al-Ramadhan is an international student from Saihat who is studying engineering.[23] Al-Ramadhan's family in Saudi Arabia was notified of the shooting. DeHart is originally from Shelton, Connecticut, but had lived in Apex; and is a graduate of Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School in Raleigh.[33] Pescaro, from Apex, is a graduate of Middle Creek High School in Cary, and is studying communications at UNC Charlotte. He is a sportswriter for the student newspaper, a video assistant for the football team, and co-host of the UNCC sports talk show Fans with Attitude. Houpt, a native of Charlotte, is a global studies major at UNC Charlotte and a former intern at The Worlds Affairs Council of Charlotte.[23]

Howell, who was a Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, was buried with full military honors and an honor guard on May 5. Over 1,000 people attended Howell's funeral at Lake Junaluska, near his hometown of Waynesville.[34][35] Howell was also posthumously awarded the ROTC Medal for Heroism[36] as well as a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star which were presented to his family.[37]

Chancellor Phillip Dubois said the university would award Howell and Parlier "degrees in memoriam" at the spring commencement, with a special presentation ceremony for Houpt, who was expected to recover sufficiently enough to personally attend.[38]

Suspect[edit]

The alleged perpetrator of the shooting, Trystan Andrew Terrell, is reportedly a 22-year-old former history undergraduate at UNC Charlotte who had withdrawn from the university on February 14, 2019.[39][40][41] Born in Texas and a registered voter in Mecklenburg County,[42] he had no prior criminal record in either North Carolina or in Texas. UNC Charlotte police said they had not noted him as a potential threat prior to the shooting.[43] He was inactive on social media networks, and had legally purchased the handgun he allegedly used.[44]

Terrell moved to North Carolina with his family in 2014, according to his grandfather Paul Rold of Arlington, Texas.[13][39][44] He spent his high school years in a middle-class neighborhood in Mansfield, Texas,[45] where he attended Mansfield High School.[45] According to Rold, Terrell and his father Craig, who had taken a job as an auditor for the Charlotte city government, had moved to Charlotte for a fresh start and new surroundings.[44] His mother Robyn Ann, who lived in Mansfield from 1999 until her death from breast cancer in December 2011, had worked as a paraprofessional educator with the Mansfield school district.[45] Terrell's former neighbors said he was devastated by his mother's death, and that the family moved because Terrell wanted a change of scenery.[45] He has an older sister who resides in Baltimore.[44]

Rold described his grandson as autistic and socially reserved.[44] He said Terrell dreamed of working in South America, and taught himself French and Portuguese with the aid of a language learning program Rold had bought for him. According to Rold, his grandson never showed any interest in firearms or other weapons, and that Terrell's actions were those of "someone foreign to me. This is not in his DNA."[44][13] He further said his grandson was critical of American gun culture, saying it was too easy for people to obtain firearms in the United States, and that his grandson had specifically referenced New Zealand's crackdown on guns following the Christchurch mosque shootings.[43] Rold described his grandson as "not bubbly and effervescent, rather shy, quiet, studious, not athletic," though he had tried to introduce his grandson to baseball and golf, with no success.[44] Rold said he blamed lax gun laws for making firearms too easy to obtain, and that if his grandson "had not been able to secure a weapon, this would never have happened."[44] He did not believe his grandson had a mental illness which would have disposed him to commit violence, "but then I’m not a psychologist. You would never have believed this could have happened, that he would have done something like this."[44]

From the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2018, Terrell was enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College where he studied for an associate's degree in science.[39] Transferring to UNC Charlotte in the fall of 2018, he enrolled in three university courses for the 2019 spring semester, including Johnson's, and attended classes in the room where he allegedly committed the shooting.[12][39] According to Johnson, between enrolling in and withdrawing from his course, Terrell "engaged with the course material" and "asked questions about the lessons, answered questions that I pose to the class. It was completely typical."[12] Cooper Creech, a former classmate in the same course, said Terrell rarely spoke in the classroom, but would "blurt out statements" and sometimes seemed oddly angry.[44] After Terrell left his course, Johnson said that he subsequently met him on campus and "conveyed that it was a shame that [he] had to leave the course", but that he understood the importance of students needing to prioritize. According to Johnson, that was his last encounter with him prior to the shooting.[12] Nick Brooks, a student who was taking a study break outside the Kennedy Building when he saw Terrell enter, recognized him from commuting on the Lynx Blue Line light rail; Brooks heard the sound of gunshots seconds later. He further said he had encountered Terrell at his NoDa apartment complex outside the school, recalling "He was in the elevator and the doors were closing and he was just staring at me. You could tell something was up with him. It’s like he had no emotions."[46] According to David Spano, the university's director of counseling and psychological services, though his office had a team to monitor "students of concern," Terrell had not been monitored at any point before he withdrew from the university.[47]

Investigation[edit]

After being taken into custody, Terrell told reporters he "just went into a classroom and shot the guys".[13] He then reportedly made a full confession to investigators, saying he had planned an attack for some months. In subsequent statements requesting search warrants from a court, lead investigator Detective Brian Koll of the CMPD wrote Terrell "stated he had been planning this shooting for several months and described to detectives where and how he obtained the firearm, research he had conducted on mass shootings, and how he chose this location."[48] In his confession, Terrell reportedly referenced the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which police sources said he had "researched" at length.[41] According to the same sources, he had gone to a shooting range to practice and had "at least 10 magazines." Dressed in black,[48] he took the light rail to campus on the day of the shooting, carrying a backpack; CMPD investigators intended to review available security footage along the line.[41] Terrell told investigators that he had entered the Kennedy Building with the intention of shooting others; before attacking, he loaded his weapon in a restroom near the classroom.[48] He reportedly chose his victims at random with no specific target intended.[41] According to police search warrants, he informed investigators he had used his Samsung cell phone to record a video of the shooting.[49]

Terrell was charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon intending to kill, one count of having a gun on education property, and one count of discharging a firearm on education property.[28][35] Police searched his third-floor apartment at the Novel NoDa apartment complex in the 400 block of E. 36th Street in NoDa around 8:00 p.m. on April 30.,[50] recovering a laptop, paper targets, three handgun magazines, six boxes of ammunition, and a magazine loader.[14] As of May 1, investigators were unable to determine any motive for his alleged actions, according to CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney, who said investigators did not believe anyone else had been involved in the shooting.[42]

Trial[edit]

Terrell's first court appearance was scheduled for May 2, 2019, but he declined to appear.[51][44] He was formally indicted by a 16-member grand jury on May 6.[52] As of May 6, the case is scheduled to be heard by the North Carolina Superior Court at an unspecified date.[35]

Aftermath[edit]

UNC Charlotte canceled all remaining scheduled university activities for the evening of April 30, and cancelled all final examinations which had been scheduled through Sunday, May 5.[21] All other pending final exams and projects were made optional.[38] In the wake of the shooting, the Waka Flocka Flame concert originally scheduled to take place at the Jerry Richardson Stadium on campus later that evening was canceled.[53] On May 1, approximately 7,500 people attended an on-campus vigil.[51] Many students sought on-campus counseling following the shooting, with university officials saying they were identifying local resources for students as they left campus for the summer holidays, and that they would continue to monitor students returning for the fall semester for any signs of trauma. Enhanced security measures were implemented for spring commencement ceremonies, including walk-through and handheld metal detectors and inspecting bags.[38]

To honor the victims and survivors of the shooting, UNC Charlotte developed "Niner Nation Remembers," a permanent online memorial and archive. The university further formed a 14-member Remembrance Commission. Headed by Emily Zimmern, a past president and CEO of the Levine Museum of the New South, the Commission included faculty, staff, alumni, and student body representatives along with leaders in the greater Charlotte community, Reed Parlier's uncle, and two current members of the university staff and faculty who had been at Virginia Tech at the time of the 2007 shooting.[54] Among the Commission's objectives was deciding how best to memorialize the shooting and its victims, along with deciding the future of the Kennedy Building, which after the shooting and subsequent investigation was kept open for university personnel. According to Dubois, the commission would begin by seeking input from the victims' families, along with holding public sessions with the UNC Charlotte and the greater Charlotte community.[47]

On May 7, a group of UNC Charlotte students presented a list of demands at a meeting of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, which included the implementation of a “school exit program” for students who drop out of Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools, including exit interviews and job assistance. The group also called for a county-wide task force dedicated to studying and preventing gun violence, local government investment in gun violence research, and changes to gun laws, such as limits placed on ammunition purchased at one time.[47] The Remembrance Commission held its first meeting on May 29, and Dubois announced the following day that Kennedy 236, where the shooting had occurred, would "not be used for any purpose" in the 2019-20 academic year; its long-term future would be decided at a later date after recommendations from the Remembrance Commission.[55] Dubois further said additional safety training would be offered in the fall 2019 semester, and that the university's internal review on the shooting was "well underway," along with plans for an external review.[55]

Response[edit]

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper ordered that all North Carolina flags at state buildings and facilities be lowered to half-staff through sunset on May 3, 2019, in honor of the victims.[56]

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles stated on Twitter, "My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives, those injured, the entire UNCC community and the courageous first responders who sprang into action to help others."[57]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte announced that prayer services honoring the victims would be held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and St. Gabriel Church. St. Thomas Aquinas Church donated 1,700 candles for the campus vigil.[58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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