On the final day of classes at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, a classroom of 60 students were gathered for final presentations in their liberal studies class. Their professor, Adam Johnson, described what happened as the first group began. “We get about seven minutes into the video and without warning, earsplitting bangs ring throughout the room, off the glass walls, creating a terrible reverberation. Students, in great confusion, begin to run.” A young man armed with a pistol had entered the room and began shooting. One student, however, did not run.

Everyone knew Riley Howell as a guy with a huge heart. “He was the kind of person who you knew would take care of you the moment you met him, and he always did,” his family said. “He radiated love…”  Riley was  instinctively helpful — carrying a stranger in his arms who had fainted in a restaurant, or seeking out his girlfriend’s grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, at family gatherings.

Riley ran straight toward the shooter, and was shot twice. He tackled the shooter and brought him down, and in doing so was fatally shot a third time at point blank.

Officer Johnathan Frisk, who is with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, provides “active shooter” training to schools, workplaces and houses of worship. “People are directed to run, barricade themselves or fight,” Officer Frisk said. “The bottom line is that Riley countered, brought the fight to the shooter and saved many lives.”

Photo: Morgan Howell Moylan