Howell was one of two students who died that day. The other one was 19-year-old Ellis Parlier. Four other students were injured in the attack: 19-year-old Drew Pescaro, 20-year-old Sean Dehart, 20-year-old Rami Alramadhan, and 23-year-old Emily Houpt.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said in a press conference on Wednesday that Howell’s actions saved people’s lives:
“You’re either going to run, you’re going to hide and shield, or you’re going to take the fight to the assailant. Having no place to run and hide, he did the last. But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney said. “Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.”
The gunman had a lot of ammunition and while detectives aren’t sure if he was targeting anyone specifically Tuesday, they know he picked out the Kennedy Building and gave no indication he was going to stop shooting before Howell charged, Putney said.
“His sacrifice saved lives,” the chief said.
His family issued a statement noting that Riley had considered a career in the military or firefighting:
Riley considered a career in the military or firefighting before enrolling in college. He relished the big challenges, whether it be jumping from the highest cliff into the water below or power lifting competitions at the gym. Once committed to something- he never gave up, never gave in, and gave everything he had- always.
Riley Howell, one of the two students slain in a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was a "hero" whose "sacrifice saved lives." https://t.co/2oUM0QOxIG pic.twitter.com/q77sWc0oOc
— ABC News (@ABC) May 1, 2019
And from CBS News:
Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, who runs UNC Charlotte’s ROTC program, said he’s not surprised Howell gave his life for others.
“I would tell you, he stood out,” Smith said.
“Do you feel a sense of pride in what he did?” CBS News correspondent Chip Reid asked.
“I do. Absolutely. As a soldier, we understand what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Smith said.
As a result of Howell’s heroic actions and because he was an ROTC cadet, a petition has been started requesting to have him buried with full military honors:
Riley Howell, 21, died while tackling the gunman of the UNCC campus shooting on April 30. He was one of 2 students killed and 4 wounded, but there may have been many more victims had Riley not rushed the gunman and tackled him.
Riley was an ROTC cadet and would have served his country. Instead, he died saving the lives of his classmates.
For his heroism, we ask the Riley be given a burial with full military honors.
As of this writing, the petition has nearly 18,000 signatures. It needs 100,000 by May 31st in order to get a response from the White House.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting last February, three of the victims were posthumously awarded the Army Medal of Heroism: Peter Wang, 15, Alaina Petty, 14, and Martin Duque, 14. All three were ROTC cadets.
Wang was buried in his cadet uniform with the medal, and was given a posthumous offer of admission to West Point for his heroic actions.
A GoFundMe page has been started for Howell’s family. His body was brought back to his hometown of Waynesville, NC on Thursday. Funeral and memorial services will be held Saturday and Sunday for Howell.
—Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter.–