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UNC at Charlotte grieves for victims of shooting

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(CNN) — Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina Charlotte on Wednesday, holding candles in memory of victims of a shooting.

Authorities say Trystan Terrell, 22, a former student, opened fire in a campus classroom Tuesday evening, killing two people and wounding four others. Terrell intentionally targeted the Kennedy building, where the shooting took place, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said.

Wearing their school colors, students formed a sea of green and streamed into the Dale F. Halton Arena to grieve together at a memorial service. They sang their alma mater and chanted “forty-niners,” the school’s nickname.

Then, they filled the courtyards surrounding the arena in a show of unity, holding their candles.

“It’s just really powerful, honestly, to just see our community and our students and faculty and our chancellor, and just everyone coming together to support each other and to support the victims,” Brittany Moose, a senior, told CNN affiliate WSOC.

“We’re ‘Charlotte Strong,'” she said referring to the often-repeated saying and hashtag. “I mean just look at this vigil tonight, how much we’ve come together to just be a family through all of this.”

Cards and posters thanking first responders filled tables in the arena.

The memorial service and vigil, which was led by students, comes as police investigate the shooting and try to figure out a motive.

Police disarmed Terrell at the shooting scene and took him into custody. As police led him away in handcuffs, he tilted his head back and smiled at the cameras.

Terrell is facing two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and one count each of possession of a firearm on educational property and discharging a firearm on educational property, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.

He is being held without bail and is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1 p.m. Thursday.

“Unfortunately, this is an incident that really strikes a core with us all. We can’t really discern the why just yet,” Putney told reporters Wednesday. “It really appears that there was no specific person.”

“And the randomness is what’s more concerning,” he added.

The university said Riley Howell, 21, of Waynesville, North Carolina, and Reed Parlier, 19, of Midland, North Carolina, were killed.

University officials identified the injured victims as Rami Al-Ramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudi Arabia; Sean DeHart, 20, of Apex, North Carolina; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Drew Pescaro, 19, of Apex.

Kristine Slade, a senior, and one of the co-organizers of the memorial service, said students would persevere and get through the shooting.

“Individually, we all cope and process with what happened yesterday differently,” she said.

She added: “However, as a collective, we are ‘Niner Nation,’ and we are ‘Charlotte Strong.'”

Slade stepped back from the lectern as the arena applauded and took a moment to collect herself.

“Sorry, emotional,” she said, shaking her head.

University Chancellor Philip Dubois, who has three adult children, also became emotional thinking of the families of the victims and grieving students.

“As parents ourselves,” he said during the memorial service, referring to his wife, “Lisa and I grieve for this senseless loss of young life and share in the anguish of their parents, their families and you, their friends.”

Dubois said: “UNC Charlotte cannot be and will not be defined by this tragedy,” he said. “We must be defined by how we respond to it.”

Student Body President Chandler Crean, who also spoke at the memorial, said student body presidents from schools in Florida, Virginia and the west coast reached out to him to offer comfort.

Crean’s voice cracked as he spoke. He wiped away tears.

“Yesterday’s tragedy was a complete shock,” he said, “and the saddest day in UNC Charlotte history.”

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