UNC Charlotte shooter pleads guilty, is sentenced to double life

Trystan Terrell had been charged with killing two students and injuring four others after he burst into a UNC Charlotte classroom last spring and opened fire.
Andrew Terrell, 23, entered a guilty plea during his arraignment, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, before Superior Court Judge Robert Bell in a Mecklenburg County courtroom. Terrell was charged with killing two students and injuring four others when he opened fire inside a UNC Charlotte classroom. — John D. Simmons/The CharlotteObserver

Trystan Terrell, who opened fire inside a UNC Charlotte classroom last spring, killing two students and injuring four others, will spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Terrell, 23, a former UNC Charlotte student, also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm on educational property. Superior Court Judge Bell sentenced him to two consecutive sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 157-201 months in prison.

The April 30 shooting made national headlines, bringing home to Charlotte the horror of mass killings that had stunned other parts of the country.

Trystan Terrell

‘Unspeakable harm’

In a statement emailed to local media, District Attorney Spencer B. Merriweather III said the sentence “brings justice to the man responsible for taking (two lives) and for inflicting unspeakable harm upon their families, the surviving victims, and the entire UNC Charlotte community.”

Merriweather’s office described a scene in which students were giving a presentation in an anthropology class in room 236 of the Kennedy Building at UNC Charlotte when Terrell burst into the room with a pistol and began firing at students seated at tables.

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“The room erupted in chaos as students began to flee,” the statement read.

Ellis Reed Parlier, 19, was likely the first victim struck by the gunfire, according to the DA’s office. He was shot multiple times.

Another student, 21-year-old Riley Howell charged at Terrell during the attack, knocking him to the floor.

Howell suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including one at close range. He died from those wounds. Police and prosecutors said Howell’s actions ended the shooting and likely saved the lives of others.

After he was tackled, Terrell remained lying on the floor, which is where a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sergeant found him. Initially believing Terrell to be a victim, the sergeant asked, “Who were the shooters here?”

“I was,” Terrell replied, according to the DA’s office.

Four student shot and injured

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Four additional students — Rami Alramadhan, Sean DeHart, Emily Houpt and Drew Pescaro — were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds. All survived.

At the scene, police found a pistol, an empty 17-round magazine, as well as 17 additional magazines, each fully loaded with 17 bullets. Terrell gave a “full confession” to police, according to the DA’s office.

At the beginning of the semester, Terrell had been a student in the anthropology class. He had attended a few weeks then withdrew entirely from the university, officials said.

Terrell told police he became interested in mass shootings and began planning an attack around August 2018,” according to the DA’s office. He bought a gun and began practicing at a shooting range and told no one of his plans.

Merriweather said in the statement that “no court proceeding can ever provide true closure” for those affected by the shooting.

However, he said, “…the sentence handed down today does acknowledge the gravity and magnitude of the loss experienced by these families, by those on campus, and by people all across this county. It ensures the man who committed these horrible crimes will never harm anyone again, it places the complete focus of our attention back on those who we have lost, and it allows our community to begin the slow and difficult process of healing and finding peace.”

Correction: This story was updated to correct the number of students killed in the UNC Charlotte shooting.