The president of the Purple Heart Society posthumously donated a Purple Heart and Bronze Star to Riley Howell, a 21-year-old University of North Carolina at Charlotte student who tackled a gunman at his school.
The medals were given to the Army ROTC cadet's family in a ceremony organized by the Waynesville Police Department to honor Howell's actions April 30, when a gunman opened fire in his classroom resulting in the death of Howell and 19-year-old Ellis Parlier.
Thomas Matteo, the president of the Purple Heart Society, personally spoke to Howell's family to tell them he believed their son was a hero.
The Purple Heart is awarded to those in the U.S. armed forces who are injured or killed in battle. A Bronze Star is given to those who exhibit "heroic or meritorious achievement or service."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said after the shooting that Howell "did exactly what we train people to do."
"You're either gonna run, gonna hide and shield, or you're gonna take the fight to the assailant," the police chief said. "Having no place to run and hide, he did the last."
It would be an "understatement" to say Howell tackled the gunman, but it "would be appropriate," according to Putney. He said that if Howell didn't approach the gunman, the attacker "might not have been disarmed."
"Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives," Putney said of Howell. "What he did was, he took the assailant off his feet, and then the heroes that we have here were able to apprehend him from there."
Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder and other offenses related to the attack, which, in addition to killing two, injured four students.