A North Carolina college student tackled a gunman who opened fire in his classroom, saving others' lives but losing his own in the process, police said Wednesday. Riley Howell, 21, was among students gathered for end-of-year presentations in an anthropology class at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte when a man with a pistol began shooting, the AP reports. Howell and another student were killed; four others were wounded. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Howell "took the assailant off his feet," but was fatally wounded. He said Howell did what police train people to do in active shooter situations. "You're either going to run, you're going to hide and shield, or you're going to take the fight to the assailant," said Putney.
"Having no place to run and hide, he did the last," he added. "But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed. Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives." The father of Howell's longtime girlfriend said news that he tackled the shooter wasn't surprising. Kevin Westmoreland, whose daughter Lauren dated Howell for nearly six years, said Howell was athletic and compassionate—and would have been a good firefighter or paramedic. "If Lauren was with Riley, he would step in front of a train for her if he had to," Westmoreland said. "I didn't realize it might come to that for somebody else." In a statement, Howell's family remembered him as a big-hearted person: "He always was able to put others before himself and never hesitated to help anyone who needed it," the statement read. (The shooting suspect has been named.)