Just a day after a petition exploded calling for the White House to honor one of the shooting victims at the University of North Carolina with full military honors, it looks like it’s going to happen.
Riley Howell, who was just 21-years-old, was killed in his classroom on Tuesday after being shot by 22-year-old Trystan Andrew Terrell. Howell was shot after charging and tackling the alleged gunman.
Now, Wells Funeral Homes in Waynesville, Howell’s hometown, is telling local media outlets that the young man will be buried with full military honors.
“Absolutely, Mr. Howell saved lives,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said at a news conference this week, adding that Howell “did exactly what we train people to do.”
“His sacrifice saved lives,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said on Wednesday. “What he did was he took the assailant off his feet, and then the heroes that we have here were able to apprehend him from there.”
Putney went on to describe Howell as “the first and foremost hero as far as [he’s] concerned”.
The shooting also took the life 19-year-old Ellis Parlier and left four others injured.
Howell was an ROTC cadet. That’s why a petition at WhiteHouse.gov requested he be given a burial with full military honors.
“There may have been many more victims had Riley not rushed the gunman and tackled him,” the petition reads. “Riley was an ROTC cadet and would have served his country. Instead, he died saving the lives of his classmates.”
As of Saturday morning, the petition has received more than 28,000 signatures.
The way these petitions work, if it crosses the 100,000 threshold by May 31, the White House will provide an official response.
Howell’s mother went on NBC’s “Today” on Thursday to talk about her son, saying she was “beyond proud” of his heroic actions.
“While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran towards the shooter,” Natalie Henry-Howell said. “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.”
Howell was with other students for end-of-year presentations in an anthropology class when the shooting broke out.
Officials have not released what motivated the attack. But they do say had a lot of ammunition with a legally obtained pistol.
According to a statement from UNC-Charlotte, all the victims were students, five from North Carolina and one international.
Howell, of Waynesville, and Ellis R. Parlier, 19 of Midland, were killed.
Those wounded were Sean Dehart, 20, and Drew Pescaro, 19, both of Apex; Emily Houpt, 23, of Charlotte; and Rami Alramadhan, 20, of Saihat, Saudi Arabia.
Terrell had been enrolled at the school. But according to UNC-Charlotte spokesman Buffy Stephens, he withdrew this semester.
Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said Terrell had not been on their radar as a potential threat.
“I just went into a classroom and shot the guys,” Terrell told reporters while smirking Tuesday as officers led him handcuffed into a law enforcement building.
The alleged gunman face charges including murder and attempted murder.