Coach dies after shielding students from Florida shooter
The fearless football coach who “selflessly shielded students” from danger during Florida’s deadly high school massacre has died, school officials said Thursday.
Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was among the 17 slain when a gun-obsessed formerly expelled teenage student went on an afternoon shooting rampage with an AR-15 at the Parkland school, unleashing horror.
It was previously reported Wednesday night that the married father from Coral Springs was shot and critically wounded, but it was later confirmed that he had died of his injuries.
“It is with great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis,” a Twitter account for the school’s football program tweeted early Thursday.
“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.
The high school’s head football coach Willis May told the Sun-Sentinel that he heard directly from a student that Feis had jumped between her and 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz, pushing her through a door and out of harm’s way.
May, who was in his office at the time, said that Feis had responded to the original emergency call on the school’s security radio walkie-talkies.
When the shooting started, May, who carries a walkie-talkie, said someone asked over the radio if the loud noises heard were firecrackers.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May told the news outlet.
May described Feis – who graduated from the high school in 1999 and returned to coach in 2002 — as a “big ol’ teddy bear.”
“Hardcore – he coached hard. Real good line. He did a great job with the [offensive] line. He took pride with working with those guys,” Feis said. “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.”
Also among those shot was the school’s athletic director, 49-year-old Chris Hixon, according to reports. His condition was not immediately known.
A GoFundMe account had been set up for Hixon, who served as a US Naval Reservist in 2007.
“Mr. Hixon, your support of our school’s athletic teams was unwavering especially for your favorite swimmers and water polo players! I want to do anything I can for this family,” the account set up by Veronica Sitaras read.
Coral Springs High School athletic director Dan Jacob told the Sun-Sentinel that Hixon “would give you the shirt off his back.”
“He does so much. That is terrible that it would happen to anybody. It is so senseless,” Jacob said.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Jamie Guttenberg was also identified as among the dead. Her brother, Jesse, managed to escape the carnage.
Guttenberg’s cousin, Marc Pollack, posted a tribute to Guttenberg on Facebook writing: “My heart is broken from the loss of this awesome young girl and the pain that our entire family is enduring.”
Wednesday’s mass shooting, which was the deadliest school shooting since 26 were shot and killed at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, left 15 injured.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is withholding the identities of the slain victims pending family notification.