New top story from Time: UNC Charlotte Student Riley Howell, Who Died Saving Classmates From Gunman, Honored as Jedi Master in New Star Wars Book

UNC Charlotte student Riley Howell, 21, who died during a shooting on UNCC’s campus on April 30th, has been officially enshrined as a hero by his favorite franchise: Star Wars.

As the gunman opened fire, Howell charged at him, and police said his actions “absolutely” helped stopped the attacker from killing more people, and from the incident being classified as a mass shooting. “He took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters the following day.

College Campus Shooting North Carolina
Kathy Kmonicek—APRiley Howell’s brother, Teddy Howell, and girlfriend, Lauren Westmoreland, comfort each other after a memorial service f in Lake Junaluska, N.C., on May 5, 2019.

Nineteen-year-old Ellis “Reed” Parlier was also killed, and four others were injured.

Media reports and obituary tributes after Howell’s death noted his love of Star Wars, such as ABC affiliate WLOS’s story that included his younger brother Teddy saying, “He’s the only 21-year-old, who would willingly fight his lightsaber with me.”

News of Howell’s fandom later reached Lucasfilm, the production student behind Star Wars. And Howell is now reportedly mentioned in the book Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary, which was released on Friday to accompany the premiere of the movie Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The book includes a brief passage on “Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell,” explaining that he “collected many of the earliest accounts of explorations and codifications of the Force” in the book the Aionomica. (The Aionomica appears in the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.)

The Jedi are the protagonists of the Star Wars franchise, an order of heroes dedicated to the light side of the Force. Only the most powerful are called a “Master.”

Lucasfilm did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

US-CRIME-SHOOTING
Logan Cyrus—AFP/Getty ImagesStudents lay candles and flowers at the steps of Kennedy Hall to honor the victims of a shooting the day earlier at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 1, 2019.

The Charlotte Observer reports that a Florida man with no connection to Howell wrote to Lucasfilms in May to tell them about Howell’s reported love of Star Wars and his act of bravery.

“I cannot think of a person more deserving to be canonized somewhere in the Star Wars universe. I know that we can’t name a major character after him, but even a very minor character in a single comic book, animated episode, or other medium would be a fitting tribute,” The Observer reports James Wes Carrens wrote.

Lucasfilms reportedly reached out later that month to Howell’s family in a letter.

“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in us all,” wrote Lucas Seastrom of the Lucasfilm Fan Relations Team, according to the Asheville Citizen Times. “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.”

Memorial Service Held For Slain UNC Student Riley Howell Who Tackled Campus Shooter
Brian Blanco—Getty Images)Mourners sign “I love you” as the casket carrying UNC Charlotte student Riley Howell is taken to a waiting hearse from his celebration of life service on May 5, 2019 in Waynesville, North Carolina.

Photos from the book were posted online on Monday, from account that appears to belong to the brother of Howell’s girlfriend, Lauren Westmoreland. (Similar details were also posted to the fan-edited Star Wars wiki, Wookieepedia.)

Westmoreland also posted about his inclusion the book on Instagram on Monday.

“RILEY BABY YOU’RE A JEDI MASTER!!!!!!!!!! It’s official!!!!!!! So so SO much excitement to have my sweet Ri immortalized forever in the Star Wars universe that he loves so much,” she wrote in the caption of the post.

She added that “Lucasfilm sent us a letter a while ago about making him into a character in a Star Wars book in the future just didn’t realize it would be so soon AND so WONDERFUL!!!!! all bc of his story and his love of Star Wars!!!!”

Westmoreland also posted a TikTok about the honor. “Thank you for giving my love the best Christmas gift ever, and making him part of the Star Wars universe forever,” she captioned the post.

@laaaaaaalalandbest news we’ve gotten all year!!! i’m so lucky to know a Jedi master 🧡#my2019 #fearless #domore #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #SpotifyWrapped #starwars♬ FOLLOW ME – egmacc

The Observer reports that the Howell family went to see The Rise of Skywalker last Thursday, saving an open seat in the theater for Howell. They also brought his ashes. “I think… he would have liked the way it ended,” his mother Natalie Henry-Howell told the newspaper.

In the letter of Howell’s family, Seastrom wrote, “All of us here share our deepest condolences. The Force will be with Riley, and all of you, always…”

As Westmoreland put it in her TikTok: “Long Live Ri-Lee.”

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