Family, hundreds of friends and a military honor guard on Sunday remembered a North Carolina college student credited with saving classmates by rushing a gunman firing inside their lecture hall.
Riley Howell, 21, was fatally shot on Tuesday last week while tackling the gunman accused of killing Howell and one other person, and wounding four more at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. Howell has been called a hero.
“A man I never knew is now a man I’ll never forget,” said reverend Robert Blackburn, citing a sign one young man held as Howell’s body was returned earlier this week to his hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
His memorial service was at a 1,900-seat auditorium on the grounds of a Methodist retreat on Lake Junaluska.
Blackburn opened the service by asking participants to remember the horror of the shooting, pray for the other people affected and offer compassion for the family of the man arrested in the case, Trystan Andrew Terrell.
Terrell, a 22-year-old former student at the university, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and other offenses in connection with the attack.
A military honor guard outside the auditorium stood at attention as a trumpeter played through open doors. Howell had been enrolled in a second semester of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps college courses, although he was not among those pursuing a career as a military officer, said Lieutenant Colonel Chunka Smith, who runs the university’s US Army program.
Howell’s mother received a folded US flag from a military honor guard, which came on stage during the memorial.
Howell was a big-hearted, affectionate person with an adventurous streak who loved Star Wars and superhero tales, his siblings recounted.
Riley “unapologetically lived as who he was” and set an example to be “bigger than the small things this world wants us to be hung up on,” his sister Iris said.
“My superhero doesn’t wear a cape, he wears Tevas,” his brother Teddy said.
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