The UNC-Charlotte Shooting: Where do we go from here?


Sean Rayford / Getty Images

An image from the scene of the shooting.

“That was just who he was”, said Mrs. Henry-Howell, mother to Riley Howell, whose life was tragically taken in the recent shooting on the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte campus (The New York Times). On Tuesday, April 30, a UNC student opened fire on a crowded college classroom. The 22-year-old shooter, Trystan Andrew Terrell, pulled out his handgun during class, killing two and leaving four others injured. The two victims were Riley Howell, 21, of Waynesville, NC, and Ellis R. Parlier, 19, of Midland, NC. Howell jumped on the shooter in an effort to stop him, but was shot and killed in the process. His family and friends were devastated, but not surprised after hearing of his heroic actions. As soon as Kevin Westmoreland, the father of Howell’s long term girlfriend, Lauren, heard about Howell’s bravery, he responded “…of course he did” (The New York Times). Howell was laid to rest in Lake Junaluska, NC on Sunday, May 5, with full military honors.

Though Terrell’s motives remain unclear, he was described as “withdrawn” by a family member, and had grown up isolated from his peers (The New York Times). At a young age, Terrell was diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis that was very difficult for his parents. Terrell’s mother died when he was 15 after battling breast cancer for most of his childhood. Though experts say there is no evidence that people with autism are more likely to commit crimes of this nature, it is possible that his disorder paired with his mother’s death prompted this attack.

The community, heartbroken at the loss of their own, gathered at a vigil at 6 pm on Wednesday at the UNC Charlotte student center. The shooting in Charlotte is yet another example illustrating the phenomenon of mass-shootings in the U.S. A week after the shooting in Charlotte, on May 7, an attack was made on an English Class at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado (The New York Times). This shooting marks the 8th school shooting in the U.S. this year.  Kendrick Castillo, a victim of the shooting, will also be remembered for his heroic actions in attempting to stop one of the assailants. The STEM School Highlands Ranch is just miles from the Columbine High School, where a massacre took place almost 20 years ago.

Members of these communities are dealing with their grief as best as they can. Chancellor Dubois, who spoke out at the UNC vigil, said, “UNC-Charlotte cannot be, and will not be, defined by this tragedy” (The Chronicle of Higher Education). The effects of the shooting will continue to be felt by the members of the community and families of the victims.