CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Loved ones gathered Thursday for the funeral of Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was killed in the mass shooting last week.
Feis's funeral began at 11 a.m. at the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has known Feis for many years and whose children graduated from Stoneman Douglas, was among those who spoke at the funeral.
"This world lost an incredible, incredible man," Israel said.
CORAL SPRINGS, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Mourners leave after the funeral of Aaron Feis who was the football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at Church by the Glades on February 22, 2018 in Coral Springs, Florida. Mr. Feis was killed along with 16 other people by 19 year old former student Nikolas Cruz at the high school on February 14th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The sheriff said several head football coaches have come and gone since Feis, 37, was hired at Stoneman Douglas, but each coach kept Feis on their staff.
"Everybody wanted him. Everyone needed him," Israel said. "He was the connection to the kids. Kids would do more for Feis than for others. Why? Because they didn't want to let Feis down."
Israel said Feis previously spoke to him about joining a law enforcement agency, and pondered whether to consider the Broward Sheriff's Office or the Coral Springs Police Department.
The sheriff said he told the coach, "'Feis, you're not leaving Douglas High School.'"
"He just wanted to be an eagle," Israel said. "He had other opportunities. He could have moved to other schools -- some of them would have helped him financially, but Feis was and is an eagle, and you all should be proud of that -- that he loved you that much."
Feis was hailed a hero for sacrificing his life to save students during the shooting.
"He was our assistant football coach and security guard," head coach Willis May said last week. "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."
Gabrielle Pupo, a student at the school, said she saw Feis just before he was shot.
"I saw the two kids run out of the building and then, I'm close with Mr. Feis, so he kept waving at me to leave," Pupo told Local 10 News.
Pupo said she saw the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, in the hallway.
"I saw him with a gun and then I saw two people fall, and then I saw Mr. Feis fall and he said, 'Get back inside,'" Pupo recalled.