CHARLOTTE — Thursday marks one year since the deadly shooting at UNC Charlotte that killed Riley Howell and Reed Parlier. Four other students were injured.
On-campus remembrance activities were canceled due to COVID-19, but the university held a virtual remembrance from 5:10 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. It featured student body leaders, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kevin Bailey and CBS News correspondent Don Dahler, who is a UNCC graduate.
It ended on a moment of silence for the victims.
5:10 is significant as it was the time that the shooting started.
Throughout the day, students came by the Kennedy Building, to pray, reflect and drop off flowers.
"I knew him (Howell) through high school with sports,” Shelby Tomassi said. “He grew up in my hometown, and I knew him on campus, as well. I saw him. I ran into him a few times. We weren’t that close, but he remembered my name each time I saw him. He was very sweet, always definitely very kind and ever since that day, I tried to live for Riley."
Tomassi was a senior last spring when the shooting happened. As Tomassi silently prayed for Howell Thursday outside the Kennedy Building, her shirt reminded all of us to never forget the two students who perished.
Although on-campus remembrance activities were canceled, the memorial outside the Kennedy Building became a spot where people could do what felt natural.
"One of my friends came up and I don’t think we cared about social distancing. It was just all about giving a hug and being here for each other right now, today," Tomassi said.
Gracyn Chamblin dropped off flowers and opened her arms out in prayer after she walked 5 miles around campus. It's something others did Thursday to mark the anniversary.
"Being a freshman, you know, I wasn’t personally impacted but seeing how strong our community has been through this, has been really encouraging," Chamblin said.
Tomassi said, “I think the community has grown a lot of stronger, and it would have made Riley and Reed proud to see that.”
Parlier’s family is hosting a “Light the Night” event at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night. They will gather at the entrance of the Pine Lake Country Club in Charlotte.
The university’s police chief, Jeffrey Baker, told Channel 9 it is more important than ever to come together in remembrance.
“That was such a tragic event that it really, it’s on a lot of our minds consistently," Baker said. "It really is. It’s something to think about. It’s a real tough day, but the Niner Nation is unified and we’re resilient and we’re moving forward. What we decided is that we wanted to present two wreaths for both Reed and Riley, to commemorate the one-year anniversary. We formed up and presented the wreaths in a solemn and meaningful way. We had all of our officers in their dress uniforms ... and we wanted to look sharp for the ceremony for Reed and Riley. It was important to our officers, they wanted to do this.”
The man charged with killing Parlier and Howell pleaded guilty last September to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges. He also pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder and discharge of a firearm on educational property.
State prosecutors accepted his plea during a hearing that was previously scheduled to decide whether he could face the death penalty for the killings.
Statement of Bill Leonard Facility Executive, Atrium Health University City One Year Anniversary of UNCC Campus Shootings:
“One year ago, April 30, 2019, was perhaps one of the saddest days in my professional life. Students and family came rushing into Atrium Health University City looking for friends and loved ones who might have been impacted by the horrible events that took place on the nearby university campus. The chaos was followed by news of the tragic death of Ellis Parlier and the unselfish heroism of Riley Howell that ended his life much too soon. We honor their memories and will never forget their names.
“Amidst this dark time, we also saw glimmers of light. We’re thankful for the lives that were saved - that those who were injured will still have the prime of their lives ahead of them - and for the police, first responders and healthcare workers who jumped in at a moment’s notice to help when their neighbors needed them most.
“And while the current pandemic will prevent the community from appropriately honoring these young people tonight, they will be in our hearts today, and forever.”
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