Lucasfilm is honoring a real-life hero and “Star Wars” fan who lost his life saving others by making him a Jedi Master. Riley Howell, 21, was killed earlier this year when he tackled a shooter at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
Howell “took the fight to the assailant,” said a police official of the April 30 attack that killed two people, including Howell, and wounded four. “Unfortunately, he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives.”
“Ri-Lee Howell” is now described in the new book “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Visual Dictionary” as the Jedi Master who assembled the sacred texts featured in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The character is particularly appropriate for Howell, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of “Star Wars” (and amassed a “legion of Jedi action figures”).
In an emotional TikTok, Howell’s girlfriend of six years, Lauren Westmoreland, wrote: “Thank you for giving my love the best Christmas gift ever, and making him part of the Star Wars universe forever.” She added: “Long Live Ri-Lee.”
She said Howell was the “biggest fan of ‘Star Wars’ I’ve ever known.” When the family learned Howell would become a Jedi Master in the “Star Wars” canon, “it seemed too good to be true,” she added.
“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in all of us,” said the letter from Lucasfilm to Howell’s family in May. The letter expressed condolences and informed the family of plans to incorporate Howell into the “Star Wars” canon.
“As a small tribute, our Story Group has incorporated a re-imagining of Riley’s name as a character in the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy,” the letter stated. “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.”
Westmoreland got an early heads up about Ri-Lee’s debut when a former teacher noticed the name in the new book and contacted her.
Westmoreland was thrilled, and Ri-Lee “would be absolutely over the moon,” she told The Charlotte Observer.