Anthropology Professor Gives Account Of Fatal UNC Charlotte Shooting

May 2, 2019
Originally published on May 2, 2019 5:13 pm

The professor of the UNC Charlotte class in which a gunman opened fire, killing two and injuring four others, said in a blog post Thursday that the gunman had been a student in his class. Anthropology professor Adam Johnson said the gunman withdrew from the course early in the semester.

Johnson, refusing to use the shooter's name, wrote:

"Early in the semester, the shooter is engaged with the course material. They ask questions about the lessons, answer questions that I pose to the class. It was completely typical.

"Eventually the shooter no longer came to class and I found out that they withdrew from the course. It is still January."

Johnson said he later ran into the shooter on campus and "conveyed that it was a shame" he had to drop the course but that he understood. He said that was the last time he saw the suspected shooter.

Tuesday night, Johnson confirmed in a tweet that it was his class in the Kennedy Building in which the gunman opened fire. He said it happened while his students were giving team presentations.

In his blog, Johnson gives an account of what happened in the classroom. Pictures of the room show a wide and open space with 14 round top tables. There are computers on every table and TVs mounted on the wall, where students could display their presentations.

Johnson said he got to the room at 5:15 p.m. to set up for class. After students arrived, he went around the room to check in with each team before their presentations. He said five teams were scheduled to present Tuesday, while the rest would present during the class' final exam period on May 7. Johnson said students were allowed to present their topic however they wanted, but their presentation had to be 10 minutes.

The classroom in the Kennedy building where a gunman opened fire Tuesday night.
Adam Johnson / Anthropology365.com

The first presentation was a video. He said the class was about seven minutes into the video when, "without warning, earsplitting bangs ring throughout the room, off the glass walls, creating a terrible reverberation."

Confused and scared, Johnson said, students began to run.

"Terror set in and we took off for the opposite door (there are two exits at each far end of the room). I stood up and kicked the chair I was sitting in away from the walkway and move towards the door, ushering students in that direction. I make it to the door, out the door and hold it open for the rushing students. One student falls down in the door way and is stepped on, I pick them up and move them back with the flow of traffic."

He said students ran in all different directions, but a few of them run with him to the anthropology department building.

"We [are] rushing yelling, 'ACTIVE SHOOTER,'" Johnson said.

They go to the department chair's office and call 911. They shelter in the office and wait for police.

"After approximately four minutes (however, it felt like four hours) we see police officers rushing by the building in the direction of the incident," Johnson said.

He said most of the students left their belongings in the classroom. He gave them his phone to call their families.

Eventually, Johnson says CMPD clears them out of the office and they exit the room with their hands up and go to speak with police on the east side of campus. Some other students from the class were already there and were giving their accounts to police.

Johnson doesn't give any definitive details on who was struck when the gunman began shooting. Two students — 19-year-old Ellis "Reed" Parlier and 21-year-old Riley Howell — were killed. Four others were wounded: Drew Pescaro, 19; Sean DeHart, 20; Rami Al-Ramadhan, 20; and Emily Houpt, 23.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney has also said Riley Howell tackled the shooter and "but for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed." He said Howell saved lives when he did that, but lost his life in the process.

Johnson was not in the classroom when that occurred. He also called Howell an "absolute hero."

Johnson said he wrote the blog post "both to document the events from my perspective and to correct some of the misinformation that is abound in news articles from around the world."

He also said he wrote it because he found it "cathartic to engage with it anthropologically."

He said his student are incredibly special to him.

"My emotions are currently high and I am absolutely heartbroken."