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Charlotte community mourns UNCC students killed in shooting: 5 things to know Thursday, May 2

Riley Howell sacrificed himself to save others when a gunman opened fire on his class. The 21-year-old's selfless act is being praised worldwide in the wake of a shooting that left two dead and four others hurt. The second victim, Ellis "Reed" Parlier, is remembered by friends as funny, bright, and most of all, kind.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 1. Thousands of grieving students, faculty and community members came together to honor the victims of the UNCC shooting

Thousands of students, staff and community members gathered in memory of the two lives lost as well as the four injured at the UNC Charlotte shooting. A mourning community packed into Halton Arena on campus Wednesday evening. 

Several people took the podium at the vigil, all holding back tears. 

"As a university as a whole, something like this happens and it kind of touches everybody," UNCC junior Cade Lee said.

A memorial grew on the steps of the Kennedy building for Ellis 'Reed' Parlier and Riley Howell. Two names that will always be remembered at UNCC.

2. 'His sacrifice saved lives:' Riley Howell was killed while trying to stop the gunman 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Howell was fatally shot while attempting to physically confront and stop the shooter.  

Chief Putney said Howell's sacrifice saved lives. Blocked inside a classroom, Putney said he had no option to run or hide, so he fought.  

"He took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives doing so," Putney said about Howell. "He took the assailant off his feet, and the heroes that we have here were able to apprehend from there." 

"Mr. Howell saved lives."  

3. 'We are just beyond proud:' Riley Howell's parents, siblings remember his heroic actions 

For Riley Howell's parents, it's not hard to see their son making the ultimate sacrifice to save others. 

"We are just beyond proud of what he was able to do during that incident at the school," said Natalie Howell, Riley's mother.

"While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter. And I can just picture it, I can picture him being big, and large, and trying to protect people behind him and he just died in the process of taking him down."

"All of these people are calling him a hero and stuff but he's always been my hero," Howell's younger brother told NBC News. "There's nothing like a big brother and I just really love him so much."

4. Ellis "Reed" Parlier  is being remembered as funny and bright by his peers 

Family and friends from Charlotte to Union County are mourning the death of Ellis "Reed" Parlier, one of the two students who died in Tuesday's shooting at UNC Charlotte.

Madison Clevenger, a current UNC Charlotte student and one of Parlier's high school classmates, said Parlier was often quiet, but when he did speak, he would say something funny and memorable.

"Reed was really a nice guy," Clevenger said. "Whenever you saw him, you could say hi to him, and you knew that he knew who you were, and you could talk to him if you needed to."

5. Police believe the shooter intentionally targeted the building where the attack happened; his motive is still unclear 

CMPD Chief Putney also said one of the most troubling parts is that there were no warning signs. Other law enforcement sources described the shooter like a “ghost” because of how he went under the radar.

“Unfortunately, this is an incident that really strikes a chord with us all because we can’t really discern the why just yet," Chief Putney said. "It really appears there was no specific person, and the randomness is what’s most concerning."

Police say it does not appear the suspect had any criminal background. He bought the gun used in the shooting legally, according to investigators.   

“We know there was some familiarity with that building in particular, beyond that I can’t really get into specifics, the choice of that building was by design, [it] was intentional,” Chief Putney said.

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