CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The lights dropped low as a clip from CNN played on a projector to room full of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was reporting on the UNC Charlotte campus shooting, describing the actions of one student who saved the lives of his classmates.
That student was Riley Howell and his parents, two sisters, brother and girlfriend sat beside officers in the audience watching a replay of the special report.
“There was another deadly school shooting yesterday at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte,” reported Cuomo. “Last day of class - a gunman entered a packed class - the kids had nowhere to go. That’s when a special young man in that class, Riley Howell, just 21 - looked like a blonde Tarzan - he saw that gunman and he decided to run right at him... The move, police say, saved so many lives.”
When the lights snapped back on, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney stood, illuminated, in the middle of the stage at the department’s Annual Awards Ceremony holding the 2019 CMPD Civilian Medal of Valor award in his hands.
“What Riley did in that class was extraordinary,” said Lieutenant Brad Koch, who addressed the crowd as Riley’s family filed onstage. “As a police department, as a community, as a city and as a nation we wanted to recognize this act. Riley gave so selflessly giving his life so that others may live.”
The award was given to Howell for his extraordinary bravery, heroism and sacrifice, while preserving the life, liberty and safety of others.
Howell tackled a gunman who opened fire in a classroom on UNC Charlotte’s campus on April 30. Police say the 21-year-old’s actions delayed the shooter, giving police more time to respond and fellow students a chance to escape.
Lieutenant Colonel Chunka Smith, who runs UNCC’s ROTC program that Howell participated in, told WBTV’s Anne Marie Hagerty that Howell “stood out.” Smith said he’s not surprised Howell gave his life for others, and he feels a sense of pride in what his cadet did.
“As a soldier we understand what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Smith said.
Nineteen-year-old Ellis R. Parlier of Midland, NC, was also killed in the shooting.
Four other students, Rami Alramadhan, 20, Sean Dehart, 20, Emily Houpt, 23, and Drew Pescaro, 19, were injured in the shooting.
At UNC Charlotte’s commencement ceremony on Friday, the school announced donated funds to create $1 million in scholarships, in Riley and Reed’s names.