UNC Charlotte student who fought back against gunman remembered as a hero

"He saved lives"

Courtesy of WCNC
Courtesy of WCNC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Riley Howell, one of the two people who died after a gunman opened fire on the campus of UNC Charlotte, didn't have the option to run or hide -- so he chose to fight back, according to WCNC

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney says Howell was fatally shot while trying to stop the shooter -- a sacrifice he says saved countless lives.

Officials say Howell was trapped inside a classroom and he didn't have the option to run or hide, so he fought back. 

"He took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives doing so," Putney said about Howell. "He took the assailant off his feet,and the heroes that we have here were able to apprehend from there. Mr. Howell saved lives."

Howell's family released a statement through a spokesperson Wednesday, describing the 'lovable and one of a kind guy' they lost. 

"He was friends with anyone and every one -- a big, muscular guy with a huge heart. He loved Star Wars, birds, cars, 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.  He could also put away a pizza," the statement read. 

The family's statement says that he was fiercely loyal to his friends. "He was the kind of person who you knew would take care of you the moment you met him, and he always did." 

The student also had a longtime girlfriend, Lauren, who wrote a quick note to Howell on her Facebook page, which read: 

"I just don’t really have any words. I keep hoping and hoping I will wake up from this awful dream, but I know that I won’t. I don’t know what to do, but I thank you for everyone who is reaching out to his family and my family and me. Keep us in your thoughts for the dark days to come."

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