Lucasfilm has honored shooting victim and hero Riley Howell, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who died while trying to prevent a gunman from killing more of his classmates. The Disney owned company has made him into a Jedi who exists within the official Star Wars canon. Howell was a big Star Wars fan and, following his heroic act in April of this year, Lucasfilm reached out to his family to let them know he would be immortalized as part of a galaxy far, far away as a way to honor his courageous act.
This all started when a fan contacted Lucasfilm on May 4 letting the company know what a huge fan Riley Howell was following his passing. The UNC Charlotte shooting left two dead and four others injured. However, authorities have stressed that Howell's action almost certainly prevented further loss of life. Howell's Star Wars fandom became a big part of the conversation after the fact. That, coupled with the letter, got Lucasfilm's attention and, later that month, Lucas Seastrom of the Lucasfilm Fan Relations Team wrote the following in a letter to Howell's family.
"Riley's courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in us all. 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."
Riley Howell's inclusion in the franchise came in the recently released Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary. Lucasfilm played with his name a bit to make it sound a bit more Jedi-like, dubbing him as Jedi Master Ri-Lee Howell. The passage about Ri-Lee reads as follows.
"Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell collected many of the earliest accounts of explorations and codifications of the Force in the Aionomica: a two-volume combination of codex, correspondence and scrapbook. Though much of its contents would later be stored in holocrons (which have since been lost), the physical books have passages written in the hands of the original sages, carefully preserved by Howell."
So, not only did Howell become a Jedi, based on this passage, he was a very important one. Given the nature of the sacred Jedi texts in Star Wars, it's entirely possible we could see Ri-Lee pop up in future stories, be it in animation, comics, novels or maybe even a show on Disney+. Riley's mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, had this to say about her son's inclusion in the universe.
"I like the way they actually left his last name. I think he would really be appreciative of that. Because, you know, they could have just said Ri-Lee, Jedi Ri-Lee, and we'd be guessing the whole time about whether or not that was really [him], but they put his last name in there just to really honor him... and that really made me cry when I heard about it."
The Star Wars fandom is divided right now. Many of us are debating The Last Jedi and/or The Rise of Skywalker. But at the heart of this bickering is something we all love and its message has always been a positive one. Star Wars is about good conquering evil. Overcoming hatred. Riley Howell certainly embodied the ideals of the Jedi and, as fans, perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Jedi Master Howell. May the Force be with him, always. This news comes to us via the Charlotte Observer.