Last April, 21-year-old college student Riley Howell sacrificed his life to stop an active shooter at University of North Carolina Charlotte. Howell was a lifelong Star Wars fan, and now Lucasfilm has honored his sacrifice by memorializing him in the Star Wars universe.
You can read about “Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Visual Dictionary, a new book accompanying the latest film. This fictionalized Howell is credited with collecting “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.” These writings were collected in the Ainomica, a book first referenced by Hermit Luke in The Last Jedi. Jedi Master Howell also has an entry in The Wookiepedia.
Howell’s longtime girlfriend Lauren Westmoreland posted the news on TikTok in a video that has since gone viral. She called him “the biggest fan of Star Wars I have ever known,” and thanked Lucasfilm for “making him part of the Star Wars universe forever.”
“The best news we’ve gotten all year,” she added.
Westmoreland’s father, Kevin Westmoreland, who is now secretary of the Riley Howell Foundation, said Lucasfilm’s gesture was a fitting tribute. “He had a very strong sense of good and evil, and how to live life as someone who looked out for others. Seeing him listed as both a Jedi and a historian in Star Wars lore is a perfect way to connect him to this story and the characters he loved,” he said. “And it describes him exactly.”
On April 30th, a gunman opened fire in a UNCC classroom, killing Howell and 19-year-old Ellis Reed Parlier. According to Police Chief Kerr Putney, Howell “took the suspect off his feet,” sustaining fatal gunshot wounds in the process. “But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed. Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.” Afterwards, Howell was widely hailed as a hero.