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Parkland school shooting: Football coach Aaron Feis died shielding students

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PARKLAND, FL - Aaron Feis had several titles at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Football coach. Security guard. Proud alumnus.

Now, after the mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida school, a grieving community is calling him something else: a hero.

Feis was one of the 17 people killed at the school on Wednesday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters on Thursday.

Coach Aaron Feis has been identified as a deceased victim in the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Football team

Witnesses said when the gunfire broke out, Feis quickly draped himself over students, acting as a human shield.

"He shielded two kids from being shot. He took the bullets himself," Julien Decoste, a student who survived by hiding in a closet with classmates, told NBC News. "As I was being escorted out of the building, I had to step over him. Right then and there ... I knew: He had to have been dead or injured."

The sheriff could not confirm those details, but said: "When he was killed tragically, inhumanely, he died protecting others, because that's who Aaron Feis was."

"I know Aaron personally," Israel added at a news conference Thursday. "I coached with him, my two boys played for him. I don't know when Aaron's funeral is, I don't know how many adults will go, but you'll get 2,000 kids there. The kids in this community loved him. They adored him. He was one of the greatest people I knew. He was a phenomenal man."

On Wednesday evening, Feis' sister, Johanna Mahaffey, said that she had learned from another coach that Feis jumped in front of students and took a bullet for them — which she said was indicative of his personality.

"He is a protector, a coach and an educator" who will do anything to protect kids, Mahaffey said.

Feis was rushed to the hospital, but did not survive.

His sister said he had been a football coach at Stoneman Douglas for more than 10 years and had played football there himself as a student.

Authorities have not released the names of all the victims yet. But Fred Guttenberg, a father of two Stoneman Douglas students, confirmed via Facebook that his daughter, Jaime, was among those killed.

Jaime Guttenberg was one of 17 victims killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. via Facebook

"My heart is broken," Guttenberg's post began. "Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this."

His post ended with: "Hugs to all and hold your children tight."

In addition to the 17 killed in Parkland, 14 others were injured. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was expelled from the school last year for unspecified disciplinary reasons. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

It is the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut.