Slain football coach ran 'toward danger' to save students in school shooting, sheriff says at funeral

Victim Aaron Feis "was one of the greatest people I knew," the sheriff said.

ByEmily Shapiro
February 22, 2018, 1:31 PM

— -- At the funeral today for the assistant football coach killed while protecting students in a mass shooting, the sheriff said, "Before you even heard how he died, you knew he died putting himself in harm's way to save others. That's who he was."

Aaron Feis, 37, a father and husband, was one of the 17 people killed in the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

PHOTO: The flower draped casket carrying the body of Aaron Feis, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, departs the Church by the Glades, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla.
The flower draped casket carrying the body of Aaron Feis, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, departs the Church by the Glades, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla.
Joel Auerbach/AP

Feis died "running toward danger while others were correctly running away from danger," Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said at today's funeral.

"Feis had no gun, no rifle. And yet he ran toward helping students," the sheriff said. "He was just such a great individual."

The sheriff last week told reporters Feis was a beloved coach, calling him "a phenomenal man" and "one of the greatest people I knew."

"I coached with him. My two boys played for him," Israel said. "The kids in this community loved him, adored him."

PHOTO: Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team depart the service at the Church by the Glades for Aaron Feis, the football coach who was killed at the school shooting last week, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla.
Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team depart the service at the Church by the Glades for Aaron Feis, the football coach who was killed at the school shooting last week, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla. Hundreds gathered to remember the 37-year-old assistant football coach and security guard gunned down while helping students to safety during a mass shooting at the high school on Valentine's Day.
Joel Auerbach/AP

At today's funeral, family friend Brandon Corona said Feis was his mentor during his four years at Stoneman Douglas High School, describing him as loving, strong, kind and patient.

Feis gave rides home to students who needed it and "he was a counselor to those who had no father figure," Corona said.

PHOTO: Mourners attend the funeral of Aaron Feis who was the football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at Church by the Glades on Feb. 22, 2018 in Coral Springs, Fla.
Mourners attend the funeral of Aaron Feis who was the football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at Church by the Glades on Feb. 22, 2018 in Coral Springs, Fla.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
PHOTO: Mourners depart the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Fla., after the funeral for football coach Aaron Feis, who was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Mourners depart the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Fla., after the funeral for football coach Aaron Feis, who was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Joel Auerbach/AP
PHOTO: A bagpiper leads the casket carrying the body of Aaron Feis, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at the Church by the Glades, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla.
A bagpiper leads the casket carrying the body of Aaron Feis, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at the Church by the Glades, Feb. 22, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla.
Joel Auerbach/AP

Feis fell for his wife in high school and is survived by his wife and daughter, Corona said. The football coach worked two to sometimes three jobs, he added.

"He always wanted to be the best dad he could be," Corona said. "He was the epitome of what a hardworking husband and father should be."

The school's football team wrote on Twitter, "He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories."

Ryan Mackman of West Palm Beach said he graduated with Feis from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999.

PHOTO: Aaron Feis is pictured in this 1999 yearbook from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Aaron Feis is pictured in this 1999 yearbook from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Courtesy Ryan Mackman

"I never thought something like this could happen," Mackman, now 37, told ABC News. "The whole community is just stunned."

Mackman said he heard from other former classmates who were close to Feis that he was apparently shot while shielding students from the spray of bullets.

"He was always a really good guy," Mackman said. "But the fact that he died saving lives, the guy's a hero. There's no two ways about it. He was always a giving guy, he was always there for people, he had a big heart. That showed all the way to the end."

Head football coach Willis May told "Good Morning America" last week, “I didn't want to believe it, I didn't want it to be true. I love him ... things are going to be real hard to go back to school and not see my buddy.”

PHOTO: Aaron Feis a football coach at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is seen here in this undated file photo.
Aaron Feis a football coach at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is seen here in this undated file photo.
Facebook via AP

May called Feis a “hero” even before the deadly shooting.

“He didn't need to get shot to be a hero," May said. "He was a hero every day because people looked up to him, respected him."

PHOTO: A message about grief counseling appears on the electronic signboard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one day after a shooting at the school left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla. Feb. 15, 2018.
A message about grief counseling appears on the electronic signboard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one day after a shooting at the school left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla. Feb. 15, 2018.
Jonathan Drake/Reuters

"It's not a high-paying job,” May said, “but if you can change somebody's life, you know, and make him into a better person, that's what it's all about.”

Football player Patrick Scullen added, “He always put a smile on my face every single day."

ABC News' Morgan Winsor and Kelly McCarthy contributed to this report.

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