The last time Michael Connell Jr. saw his younger brother, Aaron Feis, was at Christmastime.
The last time he heard about him was to learn he had been shot in the Florida school massacre.
Connell, of Leavenworth, got a call Wednesday from another brother, Ray.
“He said, ‘You know what’s going on?’”
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“I said, ‘Yeah, I heard about a school shooting down there in Florida.’”
“He said, ‘That was our school.’”
Connell and most of his siblings had attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed Wednesday by a former student who has confessed to the bloodbath.
After graduating from the school in 1999, Feis became a beloved assistant football coach and security guard there. He reportedly took three shots to the chest while he was attempting to shield students.
“He was a man of character,” Connell, who is retired from the U.S. Army, said Friday. “He was a good man. The shooting happened and he went toward it. He ran toward it, saving a bunch of kids. He went toward the guy that was shooting. I’m not surprised at all. I wish he hadn’t, but at the same time I think more people would be dead.”
Connell said his brother leaves a wife, Melissa Ann Feis, and their preteen daughter.
Feis counted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel among his friends. Israel, confirming Feis’ death on Thursday, said he was killed protecting others “because that’s who Aaron Feis was. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man.”
The school football program as well as students and players echoed those thoughts.
“I coached with him,” Israel said. “My two boys played for him. The kids in this community loved him, adored him.”
Connell, who is making arrangements to travel to Florida, said his brother was “always sticking his neck out to help people. He was always a go-to person for the kids.”