Skip to main content

Hero Killed In UNC Shooting Honored as a Star Wars Jedi

Students lay candles and flowers at the steps of Kennedy Hall to honor the victims of a shooting the day earlier at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 1, 2019. - A 21-year-old student gave his life to save others by tackling a gunman who was shooting up a university classroom, police in the US said May 1, 2019. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said the authorities were still trying to find a motive for Tuesday's attack at the University of North Carolina, which left undergraduate Riley Howell and another student dead. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

Riley Howell died on April 30, 2019 saving his classmates at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte from a shooter. Now Howell and his heroism have been honored with a place in the Star Wars Universe as a Jedi in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Visual Dictionary.

Howell, 21, charged shooter Trystan Andrew Terrell, who had at that point already killed 19-year-old Ellis Parlier. Howell tackled Terrell and brought him to the ground distracting him and saving lives in the process, but Howell was killed. Police praised Howell as a hero who saved lives. “But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed. Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.”

Now Howell, who was a life-long fan of Star Wars has been honored with a name in the Visual Dictionary for The Rise of Skywalker. The sacred Jedi texts which Rey uses were compiled by Jedi master Ri-Lee Howell.”


Master Howell also now has an entry on Wookiepedia. Howell’s girlfriend posted a moving tribute to Riley on Tik Tok which vent viral on twitter.

Following his death, many news reports on Howell’s heroism noted his love for Star Wars and a Florida man by the name of Wes Carrens – who had no connection to the family, reached out to LucasFilm to see if there could be some sort of tribute to Riley in the canon of Star Wars. Last month LucasFilm sent a letter to the Howell family offering their condolences and the news Riley would have a place in the Star Wars Galaxy.

Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in us all…As a small tribute, our Story Group has incorporated a re-imagining of Riley’s name as a character in the Star Wars galaxy. We can’t reveal the specific details at this time, but the character’s name will appear in a forthcoming book publication later this year.

This week as Jedi Master Ri-Lee Howell was discovered in the Visual Dictionary, that promise was realized.

Howell saved his fellow students in a true act of heroism and it’s beautiful that LucasFilm has taken the opportunity to honor him. Still, we wish more that this senseless tragedy never had occurred.  The student that killed Riley purchased the gun that killed him legally and was never on the radar of law enforcement.

Riley Howell should not have been taken so young, but it is beautiful that the legacy of Master Ri-Lee Howell as a Jedi hero will live on. May the force be with him.

(via: NPR, image: LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.