October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose lives have been changed by domestic violence.

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Kevin Westmoreland

Riley Howell Foundation Fund

On April 30, 2019, my daughter and her boyfriend of five and a half years, Riley Howell, were taking their final exams at universities two hours apart. They ended their final phone call with “I love you,” and he entered his classroom at 5:32 p.m. At approximately 5:40 p.m., a shooter entered his classroom and started shooting. The shooter killed one student outright with six shots. He then wounded three other students. Riley moved out of his chair, near a pillar in the room, and then charged the shooter. He sustained eight wounds but was able to knock the shooter off his feet, stunning him. The shooter had a 27-shot magazine in his Glock pistol. The last two rounds fatally wounded Riley, but the force of Riley hitting him stopped him from reloading and killing any of the wounded students or the dozen or so students who were still in the classroom. He sat on the floor with a new magazine in his hand but was unable to reload before a campus police officer handcuffed him and had him taken away. Had the shooter been using a factory 15-round magazine, Riley would almost certainly have been able to get to him and stop him before he could shoot anyone else.

Riley was a young man that was born to be heroic, in ways both small and large, but he should not have had to die in his classroom to prove that. His death has left a hole in our lives and has altered the trajectory of my daughter’s life forever. We must do what we can to bring about common sense change to gun laws before more of our promising young people are killed while just trying to get an education. We formed a foundation in Riley’s name and are working to help victims of gun violence, but we all need to do more.

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