An assistant football coach and security guard who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and then built a career there was one of the 17 people dead after Wednesday’s massacre at the Parkland, Florida school, a relative told HuffPost.
The coach, Aaron Feis, was killed after Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former Douglas student who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons,” returned to campus on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire on students and staffers.
Sheriff Scott Israel previously confirmed during a news conference late Wednesday that that a football coach was among the dead, but didn’t offer a name. Head football coach Willis May later told the Sun Sentinel that Feis’ family was notified of his death around midnight, and his cousin confirmed the news to HuffPost.
“I am so sad about this news,” Joey Fulco said. “The entire Feis family [is] devastated.”
Feis was hailed as a hero after reportedly using his body to serve as a human shield, protecting students from gunfire. May told the Sun Sentinel that a female student told him that Feis jumped between her and the shooter, pushing her through a door to escape the bullets.
The heroic behavior was unsurprising to students who said that he was warm, welcoming presence at the school.
“Even if I wanted so much as a place to sit, his office was always open,” former student Ashley Speziale told The Daily Beast. “He’d sit with me. He’d talk to me. He’d let me be in silence.”
Israel said that the remaining victims were “a mixture of students and adults.”
Several other students were still missing as of Thursday morning. Family and friends posted messages across social media asking for any updates on their loved ones’ whereabouts. Many gathered at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel, Golf Club & Convention Center, where a family reunification center was set up.
At 2:30 p.m. local time, officials put the school on lockdown, telling students and faculty to barricade themselves inside until authorities could safely evacuate them from the schools’ multiple buildings.
Police arrested Cruz nearly two hours later without incident.
“It is a day that you pray every day you get up that you never have to see. It is in front of us,” Broward County Public School Superintendent Robert Runcie told local station WSVN 7 News.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.