When a shooter whose name doesn’t deserve to be written killed two people and injured six at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte April 30, 2019, a 21-year-old hero stood up to the chaos to save his classmates.
His name was Riley Howell, and he died saving the lives of his peers.
Howell tackled the shooter, who was wielding a Glock, and brought him to his feet so that the police could stop the assailant before he could kill others. Sadly, Howell died from injuries sustained in the shooting. He bravely gave his life so that others could live, the police department said.
Riley Howell, the student who tackled the UNC-Greensboro gunman and lost his life, is now a canon Jedi Master and historian in the Star Wars universe
It so happened that Howell was also a massive Star Wars fan, according to his family.
“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,” they said.
Howell’s girlfriend of six years, Lauren Westmoreland, uploaded a heartbreaking TikTok video on Monday saying that Riley would be honored by none other than the Star Wars saga itself. In fact, the book—Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—The Visual Dictionary—named Riley “Ri-Lee Howell” and listed him as a “Jedi Master and historian of the Jedi Order.” But there’s more! Howell also is featured in on Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki.
Probably the saddest, coolest TikTok I’ve ever seen.— Feliz NaviDaddo 🎄 (@officerdaddo) December 23, 2019
Long live Ri-Lee 🤟🏻 pic.twitter.com/xuT2Q7Y4MA
According to the wiki, “Following Riley’s death, Lucasfilm Ltd. sent a letter to the Howell family telling them that the Lucasfilm Story Group had decided to create a character based on Riley as a small tribute, but they couldn’t share the details until The Visual Dictionary was released.”
Lucasfilm honored the real-life hero Riley Howell, who tackled the UNC gunman to protect his fellow students, by making him a Jedi Master in the official Star Wars canon. https://t.co/HBFFrc9ddG pic.twitter.com/e7rJBL1qbR— IGN (@IGN) December 23, 2019
Riley’s girlfriend said, “I think he deserved it because I think he deserves the world.”
Howell’s family, teachers, and Westmoreland thought the tribute was incredible. “I think he was so analytical and knew everything there was to know about every little detail of Star Wars. They couldn’t have picked a better character to make him,” Westmoreland said.
The week before Howell died, he and Westmoreland were going to go see the new Star Wars film.
“The weekend before he was actually killed, we had texted and said for our six-year anniversary we were going to go see the new movie…We ended up going to see it with him anyway — we took some of his ashes with us to the theater, and we all went, my family and his, to go see it,” Lauren said.
Of course, people LOVED the memorial, including Mark Hamill himself:
SHOUT OUT to RILEY HOWELL whose courage & selflessness confronting senseless gun-violence is inspirational to us all-This real-life hero has become Jedi Master RI-LEE HOWELL in the official #StarWars canon. May his memory live on from here to eternity! https://t.co/3bkgXaKOpx— Mark HoHoHoHamill (@HamillHimself) December 24, 2019
Riley Howell, the UNC Charlotte student who tackled the campus shooter, was a massive Star Wars fan. In the Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary he’s been added to canon as a Jedi Master and historian. pic.twitter.com/wJvlSFKhnQ— LεεL (@MechaZain) December 23, 2019
The team behind Star Wars has decided to immortalize UNC Charlotte shooting victim and hero Riley Howell as a Jedi. Appropriate: Jedis harnessed inner peace and tranquility to protect others in the face of danger https://t.co/obNBmHEw8U #avlnews— Mackensy Lunsford (@mackensy) December 23, 2019
Riley Howell, gave his life to save other students in his UNCC classroom and now has officially become a Jedi. What an honor for a true hero.🧡🧡🧡 Thank you Star Wars and my Jedi Master friend. 😉 https://t.co/bGVQaiSJZY— Lisa #SayTheirNames (@meg_Y12) December 24, 2019
While we wish he didn’t lose his life so young and so tragically, Riley’s becoming a Jedi seems a fitting way to memorialize his life and incredible selflessness and bravery.