UNC Charlotte hero's girlfriend laments reliance on students to stop school shooters

Article Image

Lauren Westmoreland, the girlfriend of Riley Howell, the student who tackled a gunman at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says she knew that Riley would've risked his life to ensure others were safe.

Posted: May 10, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 2:10 PM

They lost their lives under painfully similar circumstances.

When a classmate opened fire Tuesday at STEM School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo charged him, getting shot but giving others time to take cover or run. Eight others were wounded.

A week earlier, another gunman opened fire in a University of North Carolina at Charlotte classroom, sending people diving for cover or rushing toward a door. Riley Howell, a 21-year-old student, tackled the shooter. Howell was one of two people killed, but he managed to knock the gunman off his feet and bring the shooting to an end.

"It's ... heroic but we still needed him here," Lauren Westmoreland, Riley's girlfriend of more than five years, told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on Friday.

"There never should have been a scenario in which they had to lay down their lives, especially not ones so young who still had their whole life to live."

In the age of "run, hide, fight" -- what experts describe as the new mantra for surviving an active shooter situation by taking out the gunman -- the heroism of these students came at too high a price.

"I'm sitting here thinking that maybe what Riley did is what people are going to have to start doing," Westmoreland said. "I don't like to think about the fact that someone else had to do the same thing."

She added, "I don't ever want to have anyone else deal with what I did when I walked out of my last exam. It was supposed to be a happy moment, and I had to look at all these texts, phone calls, asking me if Riley was OK, if I had heard from him. There was a shooting at Charlotte. Have you heard from him? And I'm sure it was the same thing for Kendrick Castillo's parents that day."

The newly founded Riley Howell Foundation will assist organizations that support victims of gun violence, according to Westmoreland and her brother, Matthew.

"So now. only a week later, there is another family that needs help and not every family gets the media attention, and eventually that does die down when all the cameras go away and the news has left town (and) they are just left with silence in their house, and we want to be there for them when that happens," he said.

The Westmorelands said they were not surprised to learn that Howell charged the gunman, knocking him off his feet and averting more bloodshed. That allowed a police officer to rush in, disarm the suspect and take him into custody.

"It was something that I was trying not to think about until I knew for sure," Lauren Westmoreland said.

"It was a lot of sitting there waiting, wondering, hoping that he wasn't scared or anything like that when it happened. It's just like as soon as his parents told me that's what happened, I was like, of course, that's what happened."

Said Matthew Westmoreland, "I was trying not to think about that. I didn't want that to be the case. I knew if he was in the same room, I knew what he would do."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36578

Reported Deaths: 2258
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10188604
Lake3876207
Allen181071
Cass15919
Elkhart158528
St. Joseph135838
Hendricks120478
Hamilton119194
Johnson1125113
Madison60061
Porter56233
Clark53942
Bartholomew53139
LaPorte44824
Howard44236
Tippecanoe4344
Jackson4012
Delaware39741
Shelby39722
Hancock35427
Boone32436
Floyd31941
Vanderburgh2913
Morgan28626
Noble27821
Montgomery24917
Clinton2471
White2399
Decatur23132
Grant22923
Dubois2113
Kosciusko2052
Harrison19622
Marshall1872
Henry18512
Vigo1828
Greene17226
Dearborn17122
Monroe17113
Lawrence17124
Warrick16729
Miami1461
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
LaGrange1282
Scott1263
Franklin1168
Ripley1086
Daviess10416
Carroll952
Wayne906
Steuben902
Wabash812
Newton8010
Fayette797
Jasper741
Jay580
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Fulton511
Washington501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb451
Starke423
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Wells350
Owen341
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford250
Adams231
Switzerland220
Spencer221
Fountain222
Gibson202
Parke180
Posey160
Martin140
Warren131
Ohio130
Vermillion100
Union100
Pike60
Unassigned0180

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37758

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6323295
Cuyahoga4789265
Hamilton2811171
Marion268832
Lucas2329263
Pickaway209938
Summit1529181
Mahoning1486191
Butler97532
Columbiana89453
Stark803102
Montgomery73417
Lorain73061
Trumbull60052
Belmont44915
Warren40721
Medina37624
Tuscarawas3714
Ashtabula36938
Miami36730
Delaware36014
Portage33557
Lake32512
Clark3237
Fairfield3188
Wood30649
Geauga30334
Wayne29651
Licking27110
Mercer2278
Richland2224
Allen22133
Clermont2195
Darke19023
Erie18416
Madison1647
Washington11819
Crawford1184
Morrow1081
Ottawa10717
Greene1065
Putnam9514
Sandusky9112
Monroe8015
Auglaize773
Hardin730
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Huron611
Williams581
Holmes573
Union561
Muskingum561
Hancock531
Coshocton480
Wyandot482
Clinton471
Shelby473
Fulton450
Logan430
Fayette410
Preble391
Guernsey382
Carroll353
Defiance342
Brown311
Lawrence301
Highland291
Champaign281
Seneca262
Knox251
Ashland230
Vinton212
Perry191
Athens181
Scioto180
Henry170
Jackson150
Paulding140
Adams111
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 84°
Angola
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 81°
Huntington
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 83°
Decatur
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 86°
Van Wert
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 86°
Sunny & Pleasant Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events