• Vietnam veteran awards Purple Heart, Bronze Star to slain UNCC student

    By: WLOS

    Updated:

    WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - Riley Howell, the University of North Carolina Charlotte student who was killed while tackling a gunman during a shooting inside his classroom last month, was awarded a Purple Heart medal and a Bronze Star medal for his heroic actions by a Marine Vietnam veteran during a ceremony Wednesday.

    [SPECIAL SECTION: Coverage of the shooting at UNCC]

    The Waynesville Police Department posted on Facebook that Howell's family was presented the medals from Thomas "Stormy" Matteo.

    Matteo is the president of the Purple Heart Society and the recipient of six Purple Heart medals awarded during action with the Marines in Vietnam.

    Matteo spoke with the family via FaceTime and called Howell's actions, "Those of a true hero."

    Riley Howell
    Riley Howell

    (Riley Howell)

    The Howell family was given a plaque with the medals, which read:

    "It is with great Honor and Respect to present the American Hero Award posthumously to Riley C. Howell. Cadet Howell with complete disregard for his personal safety, made a decision to stop an Active Shooter on his college campus. As the shooter entered the facility, he began to fire upon unarmed students. Cadet Howell tackled the suspect to the ground covering his body, in the attempt to stop the attck. As he held the suspect down, he fired numerous rounds, striking Cadet Howell. It is my Honor to present to Cadet Howell, my Bronze Starr medal with Combat V for Heroism and the Purple Heart Medal. May God watch over his soul."

    ['His sacrifice saved lives': Police say UNCC shooting victim fought gunman]

    Howell was buried with full military honors.

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