The two victims victims killed in the University of North Carolina shooting in Charlotte were remembered Wednesday, with one described as a quiet, funny, award-winning student, and the other as a friend who "never hesitated to help anyone" and saved lives after charging the shooter.
Riley Howell, 21 — whom his family described as "big, muscular guy with a huge heart" — was hailed as a hero after police confirmed that he "took the assailant off his feet," allowing officers to make the arrest.
"He's an athletically built young man and he took the fight to the assailant," Kerr Putney, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief, said Wednesday. "He unfortunately had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives."
Howell's family released a statement to local media calling their son "truly a one-of-a-kind guy."
"He was the kind of person who you knew would take care of you the moment you met him, and he always did. He radiated love and always will," his family said.
Howell graduated from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, and was from Waynesville, North Carolina.
"He loved all things outdoors, adventure and especially family," his family added in their statement:
He loved to work outside and when he worked, he did it with his hands and his heart. He always was able to put others before himself and never hesitated to help anyone who needed it. He was friends with anyone and everyone — a big, muscular guy with a huge heart. He loved Star Wars, birds, cards, snowboarding, going to the lake, Kentucky Hot Browns cooking from scratch with cast iron while listening to the Feel Good Classic Soul playlist, and his Lauren. He could also put away a pizza.
Howell's friend, Cristian López Oliva, told BuzzFeed News that his former teammate was a "leader" on the soccer field.
"He'd always somehow motivate people to be better than their best," Oliva said. "He would always be the one to smile despite losing. He would cheer on everyone no matter what. He was just a positive and down-to-earth type of person. He was a good friend. That's what I want people to remember him for."
Reports that Howell intervened to stop the shooting didn't surprise Oliva, who described his friend as "the type of person that stands up for you. I have no doubt in my mind that he protected people that day."
Friends also posted tributes on social media, with one calling Howell "truly a hero who I am honored to have known."
Others echoed that Howell's actions to save others matched the kind of person they knew him to be.
The other victim, 19-year-old Ellis "Reed" Parlier, was a 2017 graduate of the magnet high school Central Academy of Technology & Arts in Monroe, North Carolina.
Flags flew at half-mast at his alma mater on Wednesday, and the superintendent tweeted that "hearts ... are heavy."
Madison Clevenger, 20, went to high school with Parlier before also moving to UNCC for college.
"He was a really quiet guy," Clevenger told BuzzFeed News. "But whenever he did say something, it was always something super funny and super random. Everyone was like, 'Where did this guy come from?!'"
At their specialist high school, Parlier won awards for his IT skills and continued his love of studying computer engineering in college.
"He was super smart," said Clevenger, who asked people on social media to share stories and pictures of Parlier for Wednesday night's vigil.
She added that Parlier would always smile and chat whenever they passed each other on the large college campus.
"It’s so sad to know we’ll never see him again," Clevenger said. "He was always so nice."
A reporter from Fox 46 said that more than a dozen cars were at the Parlier family home on Wednesday, with his relatives requesting privacy.
Four others were injured in the shooting. UNCC Chancellor Philip L. Dubois identified the wounded as Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean Dehart, 20; Emily Houpt, 23; and Rami Alramadhan, 20.
Pescaro works as a sports writer for the college paper, the Niner Times, and underwent surgery for his injuries Tuesday night.
The shooting suspect remains in custody, and officials have not released a possible motive for the attack.