A heroic student killed protecting his classmates during a mass shooting has been honoured as a Jedi master in Star Wars’ latest film.
The Lucasfilm franchise told the family of 21-year-old Riley Howell that it “wanted to pay a special tribute” to the student, Sky News reported, after learning he was a fan of the series.
The 21-year-old was killed saving classmates during a mass shooting at the University of North Carolina on 30 April. Police said Howell fought the gunman as he opened fire, helping to prevent further deaths.
Howell and one other student, 19-year-old Ellis Reed Parlier, were killed in the shooting, while four others were injured.
A representative with the production company reportedly tipped off the family about Howell being honoured in the franchise’s latest release, The Rise of Skywalker, nearly a month after the shooting.
“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in all of us”, the representative reportedly wrote to the family in a statement.
Howell’s name was then reimagined for the name of a Jedi — who are described as guardians of peace and justice in the Star Wars universe’s Galactic Republic — in part of the film’s “visual dictionary”.
“We hope that you may rejoice in his memory, and we join you in honouring his life and example”, the statement continued. “The Force will be with Riley, and all of you, always.”
The dictionary was published earlier this month, titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Visual Dictionary, and named him as a character called “Ri-Lee Howell”.
Ri-Lee Howell was described as a “Jedi Master and historian” credited with compiling “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force”.
Howell’s long-term girlfriend celebrated the tribute in a video posted to TikTok, in which she thanked Lucasfilm for the tribute and wrote in a caption: “I’m so lucky to know a Jedi master.”
“Thank you for giving my love the best Christmas gift this year and making him part of the Star Wars universe forever”, she wrote in the video.