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The Daily Planet's Opinion: June 2019
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 11:42

Riley Howell: WNC man ranks as hero in attack

Fittingly, a North Carolina police department has honored — as a hero — a college student from Western North Carolina who was killed when a gunman opened fire inside a classroom

As has been widely reported, the family of UNC Charlotte student Riley Howell was awarded the Civilian Medal of Valor posthumously May 15 from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Howell’s parents, siblings and girlfriend accepted the award on his behalf — and received a standing ovation. Earlier, he had been buried with full military honors

The 21-year-old Howell, an ROTC cadet from Waynesville, was a graduate of Asheville’s T.C. Roberson High School who also attended Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College before attending UNC Charlotte.

He was shot — at least three times, according to his partents— while tackling the shooter who is accused of killing him. Howell’s move is credited with saving lives. Also killed in the April 30 attack was 19-year-old student Ellis R. Parlier. Four other students were wounded.

“‘The chief said no one was shot after Riley body-slammed him,’ said his mother, Natalie Henry-Howell,” The New York Times reported. The NYT’s May 6 story also aptly pointed out, “Mass shootings have their perpetrators and their victims. And then there are those, Mr. Howell now among them, who risk their lives in some combination of strength, cunning and bravery in an effort to save others and themselves.”

In the aftermath, police charged 22-year-old Trystan Andrew Terrell with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and other offenses in the shooting.

In saluting Howell as a hero, we are proudly reprinting below the ending from Maureen Miller,’s blog, which appeared in the May 7 edition of the Waynesville Mountaineer:

“Yes, Riley Howell has the heart of a hero. His life here may have ended, and we feel it’s much too soon; but he lives on — in all those whose lives were impacted by this beautiful soul. And as someone close to him recently said, he did that — made life more beautiful, whether in a small-town elementary school, a large high school, a corner cafe or on a diverse university campus. And though I have no photograph to prove this morning’s beautiful moment, seeing the family of geese as they walked across the wooden dock — the Western North Carolina sunrise behind them — I know that, for a brave boy-man named Riley, the sun will never again set and he, too, has risen to new life having stepped into a glorious new day.

“Thank you, Riley Howell, for being someone who we can all hope and pray to be more like. Thank you for having the heart of a hero. May it beat on in all the lives you touched, in all the lives you saved.”




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