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The Family Of A UNC Charlotte Shooting Victim Is “Beyond Proud” He Died Saving Lives

“While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter,” Riley Howell’s mom said.

Posted on May 2, 2019, at 10:58 a.m. ET

Howell family

The family of Riley Howell, who was killed Tuesday when he attacked the gunman at UNC Charlotte, said they're "beyond proud" that he died saving lives.

Howell, 21, has been hailed as a hero after he sacrificed himself to save his classmates.

Police said Howell ran at the shooter and "took the assailant off his feet," which helped the officers make the arrest.

"He's an athletically built young man and he took the fight to the assailant," Kerr Putney, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief, said Wednesday. "He unfortunately had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives."

Nineteen-year-old Ellis "Reed" Parlier was also killed in the shooting, in which four other students were wounded.


Riley Howell’s parents, Thomas Howell and Natalie Henry-Howell

On NBC's Today show on Thursday, Howell's parents expressed how proud they are of their son.

"We are just beyond proud of what he was able to do," said his mother, Natalie Henry-Howell. "While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter.

"If he was in the room when something like that was happening and he had turned away, he wouldn't have been able to live with himself," she added.

Howell's siblings said their brother's final good deed exemplified just who he was.

"He put others before himself," his sister Juliet Howell said. "He always has."

“[He] saved a whole room of people, just to make sure some people got out of there alive," said Iris Howell, another sister.

His brother Teddy Howell said Riley had "always been my hero."

"There was no question, there was no doubt that he would have done what he did," he said. "He put others before himself... He always has."

Riley Howell, 21, was in class at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte when a gunman began shooting. He "took the assailant off his feet."

Howell's girlfriend of five years, Lauren Westmoreland, said she wasn't surprised by what her boyfriend did to save lives.

"That's what he would've done, no matter what," she said.

But Westmoreland said she is devastated to lose the young man she'd talked about marrying.

"Just tell people you love them," she said. "That was the last thing that I got to say to him, was that I loved him."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.