CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After the campus shooting at UNC Charlotte that killed two students and injured four others, there were stories of heroics and images that will forever be linked to the active shooting.
But, there was a man whose actions hadn’t been publicly known. Until now.
His name is Eric Dippold.
“I’m a volunteer. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to fight for others. That’s what I want to do” said Dippold, a UNCC student who is Army ROTC.
On April 30th he ran to – when fellow students were running from – a threat. Dippold says at first he thought it was a prank. Then he realized the panicked look on students’ faces was real
“I was about 30 or 50 feet away from the building. I made a decision. The enemy was in the building so we had to fight,” said the 27 year old. “I picked up a rock and ran into the building to confront the shooter. I ran into the room with my hands up to show that I was not a threat and to assist the victims.”
UNC Charlotte Police Sergeant Rick Gundacker was the first to reach the classroom. He says as he was trying to determine which person was the shooter, Dippold appeared at the door.
“Upon turning around this fine gentleman standing in the door– unarmed and without a ballistic vest – and showing that he was not a threat. He wanted to help,” said Sgt Gundacker. “He immediately went over to Reed (Parlier) and he took off his shirt and went to work. He utilized his shirt just so he could use as a bandage - that’s all we had.”
According to campus police, Dippold didn’t just help the victims. They say when the gunman started to resist being arrested, Dippold went to help Sgt Gundacker with the shooter.
“Immediately stopped what he was doing, came over to me and jumped on his (gunman’s) back,” said Sgt Gundacker. “Helped me secure in handcuffs.”
Then Dippold went back to trying to help another victim.
“I told him that unfortunately he was deceased. Cadet made the sign of the cross, looked at me, gave me a nod and went back to work,” said Sgt Gundacker. “At some point during the engagement he took off his pants and used them as bandages.”
Police say Dippold didn’t just lend a hand.
“I continually heard Cadet Dippold give positive re-enforcement. ‘You’re gonna make it. ‘You’re gonna get through this,” the sergeant said. “He continued to stay in that room until more officers started to arrive.”
And when Charlotte Mecklenburg Police arrived at the classroom, armed with rifles, Gundacker says Dippold didn’t stop trying to help.
“And I said he’s with me. He turned around saluted them – ‘United States Army’ – turned around and went right back to work.”
Police say officers are trained to respond and are expected to run to danger. Even though Dippold is commissioned to join the Army in two years, he was not required to run into an active shooting scene.
“He was in the building, in the room, came into the room not knowing if there was another shooter, not knowing where the danger actually was,” said Sgt Gundacker. “For that Cadet Dippold, we are grateful for your actions that day.”
After UNCC Police recognized Cadet Dippold and gave him a certificate of appreciation, the crowd at the Police Awards ceremony gave Dippold a standing ovation.
“I am greatly humbled. And I am very proud of working with all the officers that day and looking forward to working with them in the future,” Dippold told reporters after the ceremony. “I’m not a hero. Riley (Howell) was a hero. Cadet Riley was a hero. I’m just a guy who was - I signed up for this. So I was doing my duty.”
Police say Riley Howell was shot and killed when he tackled the gunman, and stopped the shooting, giving police time to get to the classroom.
Dippold says he didn’t personally know Howell.
The two had ROTC physical training together.
“I saw him sprinting ahead of everybody every PT morning, making us all look like we were slow,” said Dippold. “Man of incredible strength, incredible family, incredible person.”
That’s how Dippold described Riley Howell.
Yet, he wouldn’t use those words for himself.