Parkland, FL – An assistant football coach and school security guard is being hailed as a hero after he gave his life to protect students from the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on Wednesday.
Douglas football coach Willis May told the Sun-Sentinel that assistant coach Aaron Feis was the first one to respond when the gunfire began shortly before 3 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Feis, 37, responded to the original call on the school’s security radio walkie-talkies, May said.
May told the Sun-Sentinel that someone asked over the radio if shots heard were firecrackers.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May said.
Feis reportedly put himself between some of the students and the gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, an expelled student who had gone on a shooting rampage at his former high school with an AR-15.
May told the Sun-Sentinel that he heard directly from one student that the assistant football coach had jumped between her and the shooter, and pushed her through a doorway and out of the line of fire.
Seventeen students and faculty were murdered by Cruz in just a few minutes.
The school announced Feis’ death in a tweet on Thursday morning.
“He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories,” they posted.
May called Feis a “Big ol’ teddy bear.”
Feis himself graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999, ESPN reported. He’s played center for their football team.
He returned in 2002 as head coach of the junior varsity team for eight seasons, before become assistant coach of the varsity squad. ESPN reported that he also served as the college recruiting coordinator for the high school.
“All my kids thought the world of him,” May told the Miami Herald. “All the graduates that played for us and even the students, man. They’d go on and on about how good he was to them and how he always had a smile for everybody. It’s sad.”
“Hardcore – he coached hard. Real good line. He did a great job with the [offensive] line. He took pride with working with those guys. Loyalty – I trusted him. He had my back. He worked hard. Just a good man. Loved his family. Loved his brother – just an excellent family man,” May told the Sun-Sentinel.
Feis lived with his wife and daughter in Coral Springs.
Mays went into lockdown in his football office where he’d been meetings with some football players and college recruiters.
He told the Sun-Sentinel that from their window, they’d seen the shooter escaping with other students who were evacuating.
Athletic Director Chris Hixon, is also being called a hero after he was gunned down on Wednesday.
“We had an athletic director, a campus monitor who responded immediately when there was signs of trouble in the school,” Broward County Superintendent of Schools Robert W. Runcie said during a news conference Thursday. “Unfortunately those two heroes gave their lives for our kids and probably helped prevent this from being a worse tragedy than it is today.”
The 49-year-old athletic director was also the high school’s wrestling coach. He had served in Iraq as a naval reservist, ESPN reported.
“I was close to him,” May told the Miami Herald. “When he likes you and trusts you, you become friends. We were to that point where we were being able to trust each other. We had each other’s back. He’s a good person. He’s good to people.”
Names of the other 17 victims were slowly being released on Thursday, The Washington Post reported.