Assistant football coach Aaron Feis was one of the first victims to be identified in Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The school said Feis, who also worked as a security guard, was protecting students when he was gunned down.
CNN reported that Feis threw himself in front of students and died while undergoing surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio told CNN. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
The school tweeted a photo of Feis and wrote: “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”
At least 17 people have died in the shooting.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Feis responded to the original call on the school’s security radio walkie-talkies, and someone asked if the sounds were firecrackers, according to Douglas football coach Willis May.
“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May told the Sun-Sentinel.
A football student tweeted a photo of Feis on Wednesday afternoon and wrote: “Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval bullets covering other students at Douglas .”
May told the Sun-Sentinel that Feis was a “big ol’ teddy bear.”
“He took pride with working with those guys,” May 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.”
At a news conference on Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel spoke about how Feis was well loved by the students.
“I don’t know when Aaron’s funeral is but you’ll get 2,000 kids there,” Israel said. “The kids in this community loved him. They adored him. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man.
“I don’t know the specifics yet, but I can tell you what, when Aaron Feis dies, when he was killed tragically, inhumanely, he did it protected others you can guarantee that because that’s who Aaron Feis was.”
The Star’s Jason Boatright contributed to this story