An assistant football coach who was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being hailed a hero for shielding students from bullets as the gunman opened fire.
Aaron Feis is among the 17 people killed in Wednesday's shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school, according to the Twitter account of Douglas High's football team.
"It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories," the tweet read.
At a Thursday morning news conference, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed that Feis, a personal friend who coached the sheriff's two children, was killed.
"When Aaron Feis died — when he was killed, tragically, inhumanely — he did it protecting others, you can guarantee that, cause that's who Aaron Feis was," Israel said. "The kids in this community loved him, they adored him. He was one of the greatest people I knew, he was a phenomenal man."
Senior Gabrielle Pupo said Feis was trying to help her and other students get out of the shooter's path before she saw him shoot the coach.
"Mr. Feis, he kept waving at me to leave, and I had my earphones in so at first I didn't hear the alarm or the gunshots, so when I took my headphones off the alarm was going off and I heard the shots and then I saw the shooter run after Mr. Feis and I saw Mr. Feis get shot," Pupo said.
Pupo said she was close to the gunman, who was in one of her classes in 7th grade.
"He just looked at me and I ran away. He was just very focused on what he was doing," Pupo said.
Head football coach Willis May told the Sun-Sentinel that Feis' family was notified of his death around midnight Wednesday or early Thursday.
May said Feis responded to the incident and was communicating with someone on the school’s security radio walkie-talkies who thought the loud sounds were firecrackers.
"I heard Aaron say, 'No, that is not firecrackers.' That’s the last I heard of him," May told the Sun-Sentinel.
May said he heard from a student that Feis jumped between her and the shooter, pushing her out of the line of fire.
Broward sheriff's officials said a 19-year-old former student is behind bars, charged with 17 counts of murder in the shooting.
According to the football team's website, Feis was a former student and football player at Douglas, graduating in 1999. He spent eight years as the head coach of the junior varsity team beginning in 2002 and has remained at the school ever since.
"He was a great man. He was funny, good person, everything a good person would be, that's him," football player Dianjelo Amaya said.
"Words can't explain what we are feeling right now," said 11th grader Darryl Verna, who added he wasn't surprised by Feis' heroics. "We weren't surprised. That's something Feis would do, that's the kind of man he was."
He lived in Coral Springs with his wife and their daughter, the website said.