The life and death of Riley Howell, who was killed while saving the lives of his classmates when a gunman opened fire at UNC-Charlotte last week, has touched everyone in Haywood County, and now even senators in Raleigh have paid their tribute to a life lost far too soon.

As Howell’s body was brought home to Waynesville last Thursday, Senator Jim Davis, who represents Haywood County, opened and closed the session with a proclamation honoring the young man.

“You knew when he walked in the room, as that wide smile arrived first on his tall and sturdy frame,” Davis said. “At 21 years old, Riley Howell was a big kid, who loved life, his family, and his soul mate Lauren. He was everyone’s protector, always standing up for what he believed in and lending a strong back to those in need.”

He noted that on the soccer field, Howell was a fearless goal keeper — the last line of defense. In addition, Davis said he was a fast friend to anyone he met.

“His laid back demeanor belied his innate desire to make a meaningful impact on your life,” he said. “He made you feel special, he asked all the right questions, and always seemed available when you needed him most.”

Davis highlighted that Howell had considered a career as either a firefighter or a member of the military before enrolling in college.

“He relished the big challenges, whether it be jumping from the highest cliff into the water below or power lifting competitions at the gym,” Davis said. “Once committed to something, he never gave up, never gave in, and gave everything he had, always.”

“In life, you count yourself blessed to have a son or friend like Riley Howell,” Davis continued. “While his path was not always certain, it was not without purpose. He knew what he had to do when people needed him most. He was always the guy you could count on and he delivered.”

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