Family speaks after UNC Charlotte hero Riley Howell is named Jedi Master in the Star Wars universe

Updated: Dec. 23, 2019 at 3:32 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The man who died as a hero in the shooting at UNC Charlotte is now a Jedi Master. Lucasfilms made Riley Howell a canon Jedi Master and Historian in the Star Wars Universe.

Riley died April 30 tackling the shooter at UNC Charlotte. His heroics, according to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, saved countless lives.

Soon after his death, Riley’s family, and his girlfriend, got a letter from Lucasfilms Fan Relations.

“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in all of us. We hope you may rejoice in his memory and we join you in honoring his life and example,” the letter read.

The letter went on.

“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,” the letter read.

On Monday, Riley’s family found out exactly what they meant. Riley is now a Jedi Master and historian.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker The Visual Dictionary” was released along with the new movie.

We found this post on Reddit. It’s from Lauren Westmoreland’s brother, Matthew Westmoreland. Lauren was Riley’s soulmate. The families were very close. Matthew posted:

“Riley was a massive Star Wars fan, and in the five-plus years I knew him he repeatedly surprised me with his encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe," part of the post read.

We talked with Riley’s parents about this honor. While it is a fictional title, many who follow the Star Wars movies know a Jedi Master is a person of great character, knowledge and selflessness. Exactly how everyone describes Riley Howell.

On Twitter, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, paid tribute Tuesday to Riley.

“May his memory live on from here to eternity,” part of the tweet read.

WBTV spoke with the Howell family about what it was like to know Riley is officially part of the Star Wars universe.

“Well I think the general reaction was a lot of excitement because this is something pretty huge that we didn’t necessarily think would ever happen,” Riley’s sister Iris said.

The letter that the family received from Lucasfilm didn’t specify what the tribute would be, so when they found out, it was a surprise.

“We didn’t know if it would be a very big cameo at all, if it would be a whole book, if it would be a page in a book, if it would be whatever and this is beyond what we could have asked for,” Riley’s brother Teddy said.

A man from Florida, with no connection to the Howell family, wrote to Lucasfilm in May, sharing Riley’s story and act of bravery - the kind you would find in a Jedi.

“You can’t be anymore perfect with that kind of gesture to Riley, to us. And the man didn’t know it, but those little DK books, those Star Wars dictionaries when Riley was little, that’s what he pored over. All the time,” Riley’s mother Natalie said.

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