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Petition requests full military honors for ROTC cadet who died saving others in UNC shooting

UNC Charlotte (Chuck Allen/Flickr)
May 03, 2019

A student and ROTC cadet lost his life while rushing the gunman during the University of North Carolina-Charlotte shooting that killed two and critically injured four on Tuesday.

The student, 21-year-old Riley Howell, is dubbed a hero for his actions that allowed police more time to apprehend the shooter, and a petition has been filed requesting that Howell receive a full honors military funeral, Stars & Stripes reported.

The petition stated, “Riley was an ROTC cadet and would have served his country. Instead, he died saving the lives of his classmates.”

As of Friday, the petition had received more than 21,000 signatures.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said, “His sacrifice saved lives. The first and foremost hero, as far as I’m concerned … is Riley Howell. He was probably the second fatality in this incident. His family, as you can imagine, is traumatized and devastated. The father … what I did tell him is we’re committed to the work … we’re going to find the why and get him closure.”

Putney added, “[Howell], seeing exactly what was going on, did exactly what we train people to do. You’re either going to run, you’re going to hide and shield, or you’re going to take the fight to the assailant. Having no place to run and hide, he did the last. But for his work, the assailant might not have been disarmed. Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process.”

David Belnap, a friend and fellow UNC student said, “I want that to be his legacy, that he lost his life to protect those he cared about.”

Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, director of the school’s Army ROTC program said, “Howell was enrolled in a second semester of ROTC at UNC-Charlotte, though he wasn’t pursuing a career as a military officer.”

According to Howell’s obituary, he attended A-B Technical College and was a junior at UNC-Charlotte.

His body was returned by a police-escorted procession on Thursday to his hometown of Waynesville, N.C. Countless people stood roadside to honor the young cadet.

Howell is survived by his parents, his two sisters, a brother, and a girlfriend. A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in Stuart Auditorium, Lake Junaluska.