Charlotte Strong: Paying tribute to the six victims

On the evening of April 30, six students were shot by a domestic terrorist in the Kennedy Building. We would like to honor the four survivors — Rami Al-Ramadhan, Drew Pescaro, Sean DeHart and Emily Houpt — and the two who lost their lives — Riley Howell and Ellis “Reed” Parlier.

Rami Al-Ramadhan, 20, is an engineering major from Saihat, Saudi Arabia. This was his first semester at UNC Charlotte. According to his Twitter feed, he loves amateur photography, music and reading. Rami was shot twice while trying to leave Kennedy; once in the stomach and once on his arm. While in the hospital, he was visited by Omar Alkhudhr, the cultural affairs representative of the UNC Charlotte Saudi Student Organization. He has since been receiving support from that network and the rest of the University community. His father has also traveled from Saihat to keep Rami company as he heals.

Rami, who has since been released from the hospital, posted a video on Instagram thanking the community for its support. “Thank you. Stay strong, Charlotte.”

Drew Pescaro, 19, is a Massachusetts native who lives in Apex, North Carolina. Drew is a sophomore at UNC Charlotte where he majors in Communication Studies. Middle Creek High, where he formerly played football, has expressed their concern via Twitter: “Hate waking up to news like I did this morning. Please keep former MCHS football player Drew and his family in your prayers, as well as the other victims, and the whole Niner family.”

Drew works for the sports section of the Niner Times where he covers women’s volleyball, men’s football and women’s basketball. He has also served as scholarship chairman for the Lambda Delta chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Alpha Tau Omega has shown an outpouring of support for Drew, visiting him in the hospital and circulating the hashtag #DrewStrong on Twitter. The Lambda Delta chapter has described him as “funny, friendly and a huge sports fan.” They have also circulated the GoFundMe page created for Drew’s medical expenses, saying, “Any amounts are welcomed for donation as all funds will be going to Drew’s medical expenses in supporting his family. God bless.” You can donate to Drew’s GoFundMe at

Sean DeHart, 20, was born in Shelton, Connecticut and is based in Apex, North Carolina. He graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh in 2017. Jason Curtis, the principal of Cardinal Gibbons High School, issued a statement about Sean. “We’re praying for the entire community,” Curtis said. He and the Cardinal Gibbons community are helping the DeHarts maintain their privacy at this time.

He started attending UNC Charlotte in the fall 2017. Sean enjoys watching baseball and is a fan of the Yankees. After being treated for critical wounds, he was released from the hospital on April 30 and is expected to make a full recovery.

Emily Houpt, 23, is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina who has long been interested in politics and international affairs. She is a senior pursuing a major in Global Studies and minors in Political Science and Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies. Emily has a deep love of traveling abroad. According to her workplace, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, she has been to Costa Rica, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. Emily is a passionate human rights advocate. Her professors in the Global Studies Department describe her as a smart, motivated student. She has a spring internship with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on engaging people in hard conversations about important world issues.

Emily transferred to UNC Charlotte in 2016. In her spare time, she likes to study Arabic and read. Emily has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. The day after the shooting, Chancellor Philip Dubois announced that Emily would be one of the many graduating seniors receiving a diploma this year. “And we are delighted that she will be able to go across the stage.”

Riley Howell, 21, was a native of Haywood County, North Carolina. He was born into a large family: two sisters, one brother, two sets of grandparents and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and pets (nine dogs total). Riley grew up in Waynesville, a small mountain town just west of Asheville. It was there that Riley first experienced the wonders of the outdoors. His obituary in the Asheville Citizen-Times describes his love for “kayaking through inlets on the ocean, canoeing down cold mountain rivers, or screaming with excitement as he tried to do a front flip off the rope swing at Fontana Lake.” He loved Star Wars and superheroes, and enjoyed teaching himself new things. He was a diligent, hands-on worker and had a deep love of life.

Riley transferred from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in fall 2018. He was an Environmental Studies major and ROTC cadet who worked in Housing and Residence Life. He has been described as having a big heart and someone who, according to his 14-year-old brother, always put others before himself. This is perhaps best exemplified by his final actions. Riley was giving a group presentation on April 30. When the domestic terrorist burst into Room 236 and began shooting at Riley’s group, he could not hide or run away, so he fought. Riley tackled the terrorist, paying the ultimate price in order to help his classmates escape.

Riley is survived by his family, his girlfriend and his friends. His funeral was on May 5, and he was given full military honors. His family is “overwhelmed” by the love and support from the University community and requests privacy as they grieve for their son. Donations can be made in his name to Southern Highlands Appalachian Conservancy, the Red Cross, March For Our Lives and Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation.

Ellis “Reed” Parlier, 20, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina to Brian and Julia Parlier. From a young age, Reed was deeply interested in technology. In an obituary posted by Gaskin Funeral Services, he is remembered for having “helped family members with technology fixes.” After attending Porter Ridge Elementary and Middle Schools, he graduated from Central Academy of Technology and Arts, a magnet school focused primarily on the arts, medical sciences and engineering. There, he studied in the Information Systems academy and tutored middle school students in computer programming. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Casey Bigham, a high school friend of Reed’s, described him as “one of the smartest, kindest and most hilarious people I have ever been lucky enough to meet and get to know.”

Reed enrolled at UNC Charlotte in fall 2017, choosing to major in computer science. He was said to have played “the straight man” to his friends’ jokes with an easy, witty sense of humor. He loved to hike and camp. He was an intelligent, independent thinker who, only two years into his college career, was already thinking hard about his future. He dreamed of one day turning his passion for video games into a career as a game developer. His family described him as a “sweet, quiet, loving soul.”

Reed is survived by his parents, his sister, the rest of his family and his friends. The Parliers held a small prayer service on May 1 for Reed with no public visitation. A family spokesperson released a statement saying: “The family is still in shock and grieving over their loss.” In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to the Ellis “Reed” Parlier Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made at or mailed to the UNC Charlotte Foundation at UNC Charlotte Foundation / Office of University Development / 9201 University City Boulevard / Charlotte, NC 28223 with the memo, “Ellis “Reed” Parlier Scholarship Fund.”

The Niner Times staff expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wishes a speedy recovery to all the survivors.

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Copyright 2019