Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, of Charlotte, North Carolina is pictured in this undated handout booking photo obtained by Reuters May 1, 2019. Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – A former student at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte was due to appear in court on Thursday, accused of murdering two students and attempting to kill others when he opened fire in a crowded classroom on Tuesday.
Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, was taken into custody on Tuesday and charged with two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder after police and witnesses say he began firing a handgun in a classroom full of nearly 50 students on UNC Charlotte’s campus shortly before 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
One of the two students killed in the shooting, 21-year-old Riley Howell, charged Terrell and managed to knock him over, enabling authorities who arrived quickly on the scene to disarm him, police said.
The other student killed was Ellis Parlier, 19, officials said. Four students wounded were identified as Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean DeHart, 20; Emily Houpt, 23, and Rami Alramadhan, 20.
Authorities offered no explanation for a motive and said they believed Terrell, who withdrew from UNC Charlotte earlier this semester, acted alone.
Police said Terrell used a legally purchased handgun and was carrying a large amount of ammunition. He was familiar with the classroom building where the attack occurred, but it was unclear if he knew the students who were shot, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said on Wednesday.
“We can’t really discern the why just yet,” Putney said. “The randomness is what is most concerning.”
Local news footage on Tuesday showed police escorting the suspect, a tall, lanky figure with shaggy hair, from a patrol car. As he was taken into a station house he looked over his shoulder with a smile and yelled a comment to reporters. Television station WBTV quoted the remark as: “I just went into his classroom and shot the guy.”
First-degree murder in North Carolina carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole, and a conviction would make Terrell eligible for the death penalty, said Meghan McDonald, a spokeswoman for the local prosecutor.
Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Steve Orlofsky