Riley Howell Foundation Fund Honors Student Hero

“I didn’t intend to give Riley to the world, but now that he belongs to everyone, we hope his willingness to put others first can be an inspiration,” said advisory board president Natalie Henry-Howell. “His altruistic nature was fundamental to his character. If thinking of Riley sparks any one of us to reach out and care more about others, to help rather than be indifferent or cause harm, then his legacy can be remarkably meaningful." Photo courtesy of the Howell family.

Haywood County native and UNC Charlotte student Riley Howell was tragically killed the afternoon of April 30 when he tackled a suspect who had opened fire inside a classroom on the UNCC campus. Another student, Reed Parlier, was also shot and killed while four other students were wounded. Police officials said Howell's decision to tackle the shooter saved countless lives.

In the weeks that followed, the Waynesville Police Department presented Howell's family with Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Howell was an ROTC cadet who considered joining the military or becoming a firefighter. In addition, the U.S. Army posthumously awarded Howell the ROTC Medal of Heroism and Charlotte police officials awarded Howell's family the Citizen Medal of Valor.

To remember and honor him, Howell's family established the Riley Howell Foundation Fund at CFWNC to support nonprofits serving people affected by gun violence. The fund's initial advisory board includes Natalie Henry-Howell, Riley’s mother; Scott Pritchard, his uncle; Kevin Westmoreland, the father of Riley’s longtime girlfriend Lauren; and friend of the family Rachel Feichter.

In June, the Fund awarded grants to UNC Charlotte and to STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado to fund traumatic grief counseling services for students and faculty affected by recent shootings on those campuses.