Riley Howell died a hero when he made the brave decision to tackle the gunman who attacked the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus on Tuesday night. The mass shooting left two dead and four critically injured.
“I just went into a classroom and shot the guys,” 22-year-old Trystan Terrell remarked with a smirk after being captured by authorities.
Riley’s mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, opened up about the horrific event on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday.
“While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter,” said Natalie. “If he was in the room when something like that was happening, and he had turned away, he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself.”
Though heartbroken over the loss of her son, she shared that she’s “beyond proud” of his courageous act that saved the lives of many.
Police Chief Kerr Putney confirmed that Riley’s decision to jump on the gunman gave the first officer on the scene just enough time to capture Terrell.
“His sacrifice saved lives,” said Putney.
21-year-old Riley Howell is being remembered for his heroic actions during a shooting at UNC-Charlotte.
Posted by Circa on Thursday, May 2, 2019
Teddy, Riley’s 14-year-old brother, was also not surprised in the least that his big brother would lay his life down for his classmates. It was simply in the 21-year-old ROTC cadet’s character.
“[He] always put others before himself,” Teddy told “Today.” “There was no question, there was no doubt that he would have done what he did.”
The Howells further expressed their pride in Riley’s act in his moving obituary, saying “he died the way he lived.” They hope his selflessness will inspire others to follow his example:
“The family is profoundly moved by the outpouring of love and support shown by our friends, family, community and people around the country we have never even met. Riley died the way he lived, putting others first. Our hope is that his example resonates with everyone. We hope others will, if ever the need arises, answer the call to be selfless and do the right thing without hesitation. We hope his example of loving, living large, being kind always and finding laughter in the little things will be remembered as Riley’s gift to us all.”
Riley received a well-deserved hero’s welcome back to Haywood County on Thursday as family, friends and community supporters lined the streets in tribute.
Riley’s visitation will be held on Saturday night, and the funeral is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Lake Junaluska Stuart Auditorium.