CHARLOTTE — The two people fatally shot at the University of North Carolina campus here were identified Wednesday as students of the public university.
UNC Charlotte officials said the victims were Ellis Parlier, 19, of Midland, N.C., and Riley Howell, 21, of Waynesville, N.C.
“Unfortunately, we did lose two students,” UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois told WBT radio. “A terrible day.”
The shootings occurred Tuesday in the Kennedy Building at the 29,000-student university, according to authorities. The gunman apparently targeted an anthropology class shortly after 5:30 p.m. for reasons that remain unknown.
“Yes, there was a shooting in my class today,” Adam P. Johnson, an anthropology instructor, wrote in a tweet. Johnson is teaching a course on science, technology and society. “My students are so special to me and I am devastated,” Johnson wrote.
Four others were injured in the attack. Three of them were initially described as being in critical condition, but their conditions appeared to be improving. Dubois told WBT radio that the injured “look like they’re going to be fine.” Three were still in the hospital and recovering after surgery, he said, and the fourth was released.
Police identified the suspect Tuesday night as Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, and said he was in custody. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said Wednesday that he was charged with two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm on educational property and discharging a firearm on education property.
Relatives of Terrell could not be reached for comment.
Dubois called it “the saddest day in UNC Charlotte’s history.”
The eruption of violence came as the university was heading toward final exams for the spring semester, with commencement scheduled for May 10 and 11. UNC-Charlotte’s police force, like its counterparts across the country, has trained intensively to respond to campus shootings in recent years.
Jeffrey A. Baker, chief of the university’s Police & Public Safety agency, said his officers responded swiftly and were able to stop the suspect. “Our officers’ actions definitely saved lives,” he said.
Baker said officers were able to get quickly to the building where the shooting happened because they already were converging for a Waka Flocka Flame concert on campus.
On Wednesday afternoon, the campus settled into a mournful quiet as exams were postponed and students planned an evening vigil to honor the victims. There was a noticeable police presence, with officers on motorcycles stationed outside the Barnhardt Student Activity Center.
Uniformed officers also took posts at the front and back doors of the Kennedy Building. Nearby, Mike Le, 21, a senior from Trinity, N.C., stopped at a campus library to retrieve a bag he had abandoned after the shooting occurred.
Le recalled that he was outside the library late Tuesday afternoon when he suddenly saw people running.
“Then I see someone bust open a door and I think, ‘Something’s got to be happening,’” Le said. “Someone said ‘School shooter! School shooter!’ So I turned around and left, leaving my bag and everything.”
In the tumult, Le said he hopped into the car of someone he didn’t know who was parked nearby, joining three others who were in tears. He told the driver: “Take me anywhere. Somewhere else that’s not here.”
Srvluga and Anderson reported from Washington. Debbie Truong contributed to this report.
This is a developing report. It will be updated.