Assistant football coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon, both hailed as heroes, were among those killed during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, officials confirmed Thursday.
“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.”
Police have said that at least 17 people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded in Wednesday’s shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Head football coach Willis May told the Sun-Sentinel that a student told him that Feis, who also served as a security monitor at the school, pushed her out of the line of fire while jumping between her and the shooter.
Expelled student Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday morning.
The Twitter account of the school’s football team said Feis, who coached linemen for the football program, died while protecting students from the gunman.
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 pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3
— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018
May told the Sun Sentinel that Feis was the first to respond to the initial “Code Red” call on the school’s security walkie-talkies.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers,'” May said. “That’s the last I heard of him.”
According to his biography on the school’s athletic website, Feis graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999, returned to the school as a coach in 2002 and served as head coach of the JV team for eight seasons. He also served as the school’s college recruiting coordinator.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offered his condolences Thursday on behalf of “the entire football community” on Twitter.
The entire football community is grieving the loss of Coach Aaron Feis and all those who tragically lost their lives yesterday. https://t.co/geIMyMQ3Ld
— Roger Goodell (@nflcommish) February 15, 2018
“Big ol’ teddy bear,” May said of Feis to the newspaper. “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.”
The 49-year-old Hixon also served as the wrestling coach at Stoneman Douglas. He previously was athletic director at South Broward High School and had served in Iraq as a U.S. Naval Reservist.
Maddy Wilford, a basketball player at Stoneman Douglas, was hospitalized after being shot multiple times with an AR-15, her mother posted on Facebook.
Girls basketball coach Marilyn Rule also posted to Facebook early Thursday, saying Wilford has had two surgeries with another scheduled and is “fighting for her life.”