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Florida shooting heroes: 3 coaches, teachers gave lives for students

The athletic department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost a big chunk of its coaching staff -- and an even bigger chunk of its heart -- during the Valentine’s Day shooting that claimed the lives of its athletic director, cross country coach and assistant football coach, in addition to 14 students.

All three men, Chris Hixon, Scott Beigel and Aaron Feis, have been hailed as heroes for shielding and protecting students during Wednesday’s mass shooting. The accused shooter, former student Nikolas Cruz, is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

>> Read more trending news

Aaron Feis

Feis, 37, of Coral Springs, was one of the first victims publicly named in the aftermath of the massacre. The school’s football department announced the assistant coach and security guard’s death on social media.

“He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot,” the announcement read. “He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories.”

The Palm Beach Post reported that Feis was shot after throwing himself between students and the gunman. He died in surgery later that night.

Willis May, the school’s head football coach, said that he heard Feis respond via walkie-talkie to the original call reporting the shooting, in which someone asked if the loud noises they heard were firecrackers.

“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May said

Feis appeared to be familiar with guns. His Facebook page, which has been turned into a memorial to him, depicts him as a gun enthusiast.

He once shared a news story about an Oklahoma school district that sought to deter gun violence by allowing some school administrators to carry guns on campus, and by posting signs warning the public of that fact.  

In 2016, he also posted a Duck Dynasty-themed image that stated, “America doesn’t have a gun problem -- it has a sin and self-control problem.” 

Feis also expressed pride in his position as a football coach.

“A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime,” one image read. 

May described Feis as just such a leader, according to the Washington Post. The head coach called Feis a “hardcore” coach who loved working with the players. 

He also described him as loyal and trustworthy.

“He had my back,” May said, according to the Post. “He worked hard. Just a good man. Loved his family. Loved his brother. Just an excellent family man.”

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel also praised Feis, who he knew personally.

“I coached with him. My two boys played for him,” Israel said during a Thursday news conference, according to NBC News. “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.”

Feis, who also played football at Douglas as a student, returned to his alma mater as a coach three years after his 1999 graduation, according to his bio on the school’s athletics page. He spent his entire coaching career there.

A GoFundMe page honoring Feis was created Thursday and, in less than 24 hours, had raised more than $76,000 of the $100,000 goal. The cash will go to his family.

Feis is survived by his wife, Melissa, and their daughter, Arielle. 

Chris Hixon

Like Feis, Hixon rushed toward the gunfire instead of away from it when the gunman started shooting. The 49-year-old athletic director, who lived in Hollywood, also filled in as volleyball coach and served as a security monitor when needed.

It was that security role that likely put him in the line of fire, friend and former colleague Dianne Sanzari told the Associated Press

“While he was a security monitor, he did the very best he could to also serve in that athletic administrator role,” Sanzari told the news station. “He loved his family; he loved his job. Chris was just amazing.”

Hixon, who also served as the school’s wrestling coach, pitched in wherever he could, according to those who knew him. His dedication led to him being named the Broward County Athletic Association’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2017. 

A Naval reservist, Hixon was also deployed to Iraq about a decade ago. 

“He loved being an American and serving his country, and he instilled that in our kids,” his widow, Debra Hixon, told CNN

She said he also loved giving back to the community, particularly when it came to his students. He gave students rides or lunch money when needed, and would open up his family’s home to them.

“Every one of those students, he thought of as his own kid,” Debra Hixon said

Besides his wife, Hixon leaves behind his own two children, including a son with Down syndrome, ABC News reported

“Chris is probably the nicest guy I have ever met,” Coral Springs High School Athletic Director Dan Jacob told ABC News. “He put the needs of everyone else before his own.”

Similar sentiments could be found on Debra Hixon’s Facebook page, where she wished her friends a Happy Valentine’s Day just hours before her husband was slain. 

“Hope everyone has a warm and fuzzy day!” she wrote. 

Instead of returned warm wishes, the comments on her post are comprised of condolences from friends and strangers alike.

“Debbi, Chris was one of the best people I ever had the pleasure to work with,” one woman wrote. “My heart goes out to you and your family. MSD, the Broward school board and, indeed, the world, are all dimmer -- LESS -- today. My heart aches for you.”

Since the shooting, Debra Hixon has posted several videos and images pleading for reform to the United States’ gun laws. One image shows a rifle used by the Founding Fathers, which fired one or two bullets per minute.

It also showed an AR-15, which authorities said is the model of assault rifle Cruz used in Wednesday’s shooting. It fires 45 rounds per minute, the graphic states. 

“Times have changed. Guns have changed,” the image reads. “Our gun laws should change with them.”

Scott Beigel

Beigel, 35, was killed as he ushered students into the safety of the classroom where he taught, the Palm Beach Post reported. Besides teaching geography, he also served as Stoneman Douglas’ cross-country coach. 

Beigel had locked the door of his classroom when the “Code Red” alert was sounded, but when he realized more students were outside his door, he acted quickly.

“(He) unlocked the door and let us in,” student Kelsey Friend told “Good Morning America.” “I thought he was behind me, but he wasn’t. When he opened the door, he had to relock it so we could stay safe, but he didn’t have a chance to.”

Instead, he blocked the door with his body, another student, Bruna Oliveda, said. 

“I don’t know how we’re alive,” Oliveda said, according to NBC News.

Friend told CNN in an interview that Beigel will forever be her hero. 

“I’ll never forget the actions he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom,” Friend said. “He was an amazing person, and I am alive today because of him.”

Students and members of Beigel’s cross-country team mourned him on social media. 

“I have said RIP (Rest in Peace) too many times in the past 24 hours, but RIP Coach Beagle (sic),” student Chad Williams tweeted. “You are a king and heaven got a good one. Rest easy.”

Beigel, a native of Long Island, was also mourned by fellow counselors and former campers at Camp Starlight, a summer camp for children located in Starlight, Pennsylvania. Beigel served on the staff each year. 

“The Starlight family is wrapping their arms around each other today, singing from our hearts to Starlight’s beloved friend and hero, Scott Beigel,” read a post on the camp’s Facebook page. “May every road rise up to meet your feet, and may the wind be at your back. May good friends supply every lack, until once more as friends we meet. Shalom, shalom.”

Former camper Sydney Reibman described Beigel as one of the most amazing people she’d ever met. 

“He truly did touch the lives of every person who stepped onto camp,” Reibman wrote on Facebook. “From making me laugh just by looking at me, or making a sarcastic comment (which I could never tell if he was actually kidding or not), to giving me tough love when I needed it, he knew how to make every situation fun and turn everything into something positive.

“My summers at camp never would have been the same without him.”

Matthew Perlman, who shared video of Kelsey Friend’s interview about Beigel’s heroism, wrote that Beigel had been his role model since his first summer at camp.

“Thank you for all the laughs and joy you brought into the world,” Perlman wrote. “It’s times like these where we need to love a little more and cherish the time we have together. Through the tears, our memories cling and surround you. Sending love to my entire Starlight family.”

Lindsay Jennings called Beigel’s death a loss for everyone who knew him.

“But I know, like myself, that not one of you is surprised that our Scott stood in harm’s way for his students. Of course he did,” Jennings wrote. “Scott took ownership personally (of) each group of kids I watched him work with. 

“He was one of the funniest and wittiest people I have ever come across, and Starlight wouldn’t have been the same without him for any of us.”

Read the indictment: 13 Russians, 3 Russian entities accused of meddling in US elections

The Justice Department on Friday released a 37-page indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian entities of interfering in U.S. elections.

The indictments were part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Read the full indictment below:

READ MORE: Mueller indicts 13 Russians, 3 Russian entities in election meddling probe | MORE

All clear issued after reports of gunshots prompt lockdown at Washington college

Reports of gunshots heard at Washington’s Highline Community College prompted officials to close the campus for hours Friday morning.

School officials later said the scene was cleared without authorities finding any evidence that a shooting had taken place.

READ MORE: What to do if you are in an 'active shooter' situationMORE 

Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims

Authorities said 17 people died and more than a dozen others were injured Wednesday when a gunman opened fire on students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Several people remained hospitalized Thursday.

Here’s what we know about the victims so far:

READ MORE: Read: Trump addresses nation after deadly Florida high school shooting | Florida school shooting: Football coach shot, killed while protecting students hailed as hero | Photos: Nation mourns after Florida school shooting | Florida school shooting: At hospital, anxious father can't find daughter | MORE

Florida school shooting survivor to Trump: ‘I don’t want your condolences’

A student who survived Wednesday’s massacre at a south Florida high school had strong words for President Trump in the wake of the shooting that left 17 students and administrators dead.

“I don’t want your condolences, you (expletive) piece of (expletive), my friends and teachers were shot,” wrote Twitter user @chaddiedabaddie, who identifies herself as Sarah. “Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

As of Thursday morning, Sarah’s tweet had been liked nearly 400,000 times and retweeted by nearly 160,000 people. It was also making the rounds through the media, with coverage from national and international outlets like Newsweek and The Independent

She also earned praise on social media for speaking her mind. 

“The kids are better than us,” tweeted Ashley Feinberg, a reporter at the Huffington Post. Feinberg shared several tweets from angry Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.

Sarah was far from the only student to speak out on Twitter about the shooting, which left more than a dozen people injured. The accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been identified as a former student who was kicked out of the school last year.

>> Related story: Florida school shooting suspect charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder

“Today I woke up excited to go to school in my cute dress and celebrate Valentine’s Day with my friends,” a girl named Lyliah wrote. “Today I came home nearly terrified and worried about the people I care about the most. Nobody should have to go through that.”

The girl also tweeted that she was scared to hear the names of those killed.

“I cannot stop hearing the sound of the gun as he walked down my hallway,” a girl named Morgan Williams wrote. “I cannot unsee my classmates who were shot get carried out by police. I cannot unsee the bodies on the floor. Please keep in mind the horror of what we’ve gone through today. #prayfordouglas.”

Morgan shared a video recorded in her classroom, in which students are heard crying hysterically as police officers remove an injured student from the room. Another student is seen lying motionless in a pool of blood before the person recording the footage flees the classroom and runs from the school building.

“I still can’t comprehend this,” Morgan wrote. “This is my classroom. I’m in this video. I have no words.”

Several students also followed Sarah’s lead in castigating pundits for their comments after the tragedy. 

“Can the left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda?” conservative commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted. “My goodness. This isn’t about a gun, it’s about another lunatic.”

girl identified as Carly responded.

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours,” Carly wrote. “It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns, and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

Another girl, identified as Kyra, also fired back.

“A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates,” the girl tweeted. “A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented.”

She then used an expletive to tell Lahren to shut up. 

Students also fought back against YouTube vlogger and conspiracy theorist Mark Dice, who criticized the students who took photos and videos from inside the school as the shooting was ongoing.

“Someone want to tell the Generation Z kids that in the event of a school shooting, they should call 911 instead of posting video of it on Snapchat,” Dice wrote in a tweet that has since been taken down. 

A boy identified as Connor spoke up.

“The fact that you think the first thing we did was go to Snapchat is ridiculous,” Connor tweeted. “911 operators don’t need 4,500 calls for the same thing. At least one kid in each room called 911 and the rest talked to their parents.”

Sarah called Dice a “heartless (expletive)” for the tweet.

“And (by the way), as we were running for our lives, we were calling 911 to the point that they told us not to anymore,” she wrote. 

The students got some help making their case from celebrities. Actress Shannon Purser, who played Barb in the first season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” backed Sarah up. 

“Shame on you, @MarkDice,” Purser wrote. “Have you considered that maybe they wouldn’t want to speak, as it might alert the gunman? That the videos could help identify the shooter and notify others to safely call police?”

Sarah ended her day Wednesday by calling it the worst day of her life.

“I’ve been crying helplessly for hours,” she wrote. “Thank you to everyone for your support. I’m going to try to sleep now.”

As of noon Thursday, Sarah’s Twitter account was restricted to followers only.

Florida school shooting: Family says missing girl Meadow Pollack has died

Update 1:21 p.m. Feb. 15, 2018: Meadow Pollack, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who went missing after Wednesday’s shooting, has died, her father, Andrew Pollack, said Thursday morning.

Original report: Andrew Pollack stood outside the hospital Wednesday afternoon with a firm grip on his cellphone, anxiously waiting to hear the words “we found her.”

>> Live updates: 17 dead, more than a dozen injured in shooting rampage at Parkland, Florida high school

Pollack and his wife were searching for their daughter Meadow, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They called her phone so many times Wednesday only to hear it ring and ring and ring.

“We can’t locate her. I keep looking at my phone,” Pollack said outside Broward Health North hospital. “I don’t know where to go from here.”

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Parents, students describe mayhem, aftermath

Pollack rattled off details about his 18-year-old — she plans to go to Lynn University for college. He showed a Palm Beach Post reporter a photo of her wearing a dark, strapless dress and a smile while standing next to her cousin.

As of 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, he still hadn’t heard.

About a couple hundred feet from where Pollack stood, two doctors gave an update to reporters on the nine patients brought to the hospital after a gunman opened fire at the high school. The doctors said Wednesday marked the biggest mass casualty incident the hospital has seen.

>> Florida school shooting: Football coach shot, killed while protecting students hailed as hero

One of the hospitals’ nine patients was suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19. The doctors — Evan Boyar and Igor Nichiporenko — said he was released to police custody and did not detail his injuries. They said authorities took him to Broward North because it was the closest trauma facility.

“Every patient that comes in gets treated as a patient,” said Boyar, director of the emergency medicine department.

Another shooting victim was taken to Broward Health Coral Springs and seven others were taken to Broward Health Medical Center. Doctors at Broward North couldn’t give updates on those patients’ conditions.

>> PHOTOS: Shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida

Of the eight at Broward North, two died, three were in stable condition and three were in critical, the doctors said. At the time of the news conference, three were in operating rooms.

Nichiporenko said none of the six at Broward North were expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday evening, but gave a positive outlook on their conditions: “They’re going to have successful surgeries. They’re going to recover. They’re going to go home.”

The doctors declined to give details about the patients, including their names, ages or exact injuries, but said they all received gunshot wounds.

“I prefer not to comment on specific patients’ demeanor, but you know as a human being you can imagine that they would be in shock or you know be emotional about the whole situation,” Boyar said.

>> Read more trending news 

The doctors said they send their sympathy and condolences to all involved in the shooting. They said the hospital was ready for a day like this and often runs drills to make sure if a day like this does come the patients receive “calm, collected care.”

“We do this every day. So what we saw today, we have penetrating trauma, non-penetrating trauma. We’re a Level 2 trauma center and that’s what we do everyday,” said Nichiporenko, the trauma medical director. “So fortunately for everybody we are located very close to the high school where the shooting happened, so fortunately for everybody they brought these patients to our hospital and we were able to do a great job to do the right thing.”

Florida school shooting: Probe focuses on gunman's motives, victims' lives

Law enforcement officials are scheduled to give an update of their investigation into a deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

The update is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday near the school in Parkland, Florida, an affluent town in northwest Broward County, about 15 miles from Boca Raton.

>> LIVE UPDATES: Florida school shooting suspect charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder

The suspected gunman, Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 19, had been a student there recently “but was expelled from the school the previous year,” the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.

Cruz was booked into the Broward County jail and is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

At 5-foot-7 and 131 pounds, he was expected to make his first appearance before a judge later Thursday morning in Broward County court.

>> Florida school shooting: Football coach shot, killed while protecting students hailed as hero

Police said Cruz concealed himself in the crowd and was among those running out of the school after the shooting. He was captured about 2 miles away near a swimming pool in the Wyndham Lakes community across the Sawgrass Expressway from the school.

Individuals with information are encouraged to call the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit www.FBI.gov/ParklandShooting.

>> PHOTOS: Shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida

A day after 17 people lost their lives in a storm of bullets at a South Florida high school, police are still trying to piece together what happened. 

The investigation of the high school massacre on Valentine’s Day stretches throughout the state, including one city in Palm Beach County. 

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and FBI are investigating a mobile home south of Lantana Road and off Congress Avenue. 

>> Read more trending news 

Irving Beck, who lives in Lantana Cascade Mobile Home Park, said he got home around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and law enforcement was already at the scene. 

He said authorities told him it was some kind of explosive at one of the residences.

Florida school shooting: Students describe terror, panic during rampage

Flashing lights and police tape still blocked the area surrounding Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, hours after investigators said a gunman opened fire, killing 17 people.

>> LIVE UPDATES: 17 dead, more than a dozen injured in shooting rampage at Parkland, Florida, high school

In a student’s Snapchat video, the sound of gunfire can be heard inside a classroom as students cried and crouched under their desks.

“I was just praying. Praying to God it was not me,” said Trayvon Telfair, a sophomore at the school.

>> Florida school shooting: Football coach shot while protecting students hailed as hero

Telfair said he was in the freshman building and was feet away from the gunfire.

"One of the bullets came through the window and I just looked and everybody was in the room screaming. The teacher was telling them to be quiet," he said.

He was one of the dozens of students led out of the building by armed officers as they walked out with their hands above their heads.

Panic ensued as the school was put on lockdown.

Some students were led to safety, but other students had to remain barricaded in classrooms until police could reach them.

>> PHOTOS: Shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida

One student described waiting near the body of a teacher who had been shot.

“We saw his body for like 30 minutes. We were just praying and crying, and then the police came and we just got out,” said student Bruna Oliveda.

As students ran from the school, they described the chaos inside.

“We heard the pops and we were in the building at the back of the school,” said a student, who was not identified.

As students were led out of the school, some were told to keep their hands on the shoulders of the students in front of them and not to look to the side.

They were told to put their backpacks in a pile and move away.

Student Christina Vega said she never wants to step on campus again.

“I can’t go up the stairs. There were just trails of blood,” she said. “Our teacher, right in the corner, you can just see the bullet and like, blood on the wall. And then this kid on the other side."

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said the 17 victims include students and adults.

Investigators said the suspected gunman is former student 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

He was taken into custody about 2 miles from the school.

>> On WFTV.com: WATCH: Takedown of Stoneman Douglas HS suspect

School officials said Cruz had been expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.

Investigators said Cruz had at least one rifle and numerous magazines of ammunition.

There is no known motive for the shooting.

School was canceled for the remainder of the week and multiple grief counselors will be available, officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told reporters Wednesday evening he can't imagine what the families of the victims are going through. He also said he would be visiting hospitalized survivors.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County also said at the news conference that families of the dead are being notified. He said 12 of the dead have been identified. He says not all victims were carrying identification and thus couldn't be quickly identified.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says the state will cover funeral expenses for the victims and counseling for survivors.

Florida school shooting: Football coach shot, killed while protecting students hailed as hero

UPDATE, 5:19 a.m. EST Thursday: Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has died after being wounded in a deadly mass shooting Wednesday, the team tweeted early Thursday.

“It is with great sadness that our football family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis,” the team wrote. “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.”

>> See the tweet here

ORIGINAL STORY: An assistant football coach reportedly was shot while protecting students during a deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Aaron Feis is being celebrated as a hero, according to the Miami Herald, citing tributes to the coach and reports on social media.

>> MORE: Live updatesPhoto gallery | Who is Nikolas Cruz?

Seventeen were killed and many more were injured in Wednesday's shooting. A gunman, whom police identified as 19-year-old former student Nikolas De Jesus Cruz, opened fire on students in the afternoon.

When the shooting started, Feis – a school security guard, as well – reportedly stepped between the shooter and students, taking bullets in the act. He was reportedly hospitalized in critical condition.

Douglas football player Charlie Rothkopf tweeted that his coach “took [several] bullets covering other students at Douglas.”

The Miami Herald reported that Feis is a 1999 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

>> Read more trending news 

“He is a friend to all students that know him,” wrote Angelica Losada, who identified herself as a former student at the school. “Please, take a moment to send healing prayers for him.”

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said “a football coach” had died in the shooting. It is not clear if Israel was referring to Feis.

Just before school shooting, Parkland ranked as one of Florida's safest cities

In a national survey released this week, Parkland, Florida, was ranked as the 15th safest city in America, and one of the safest cities in Florida.

>> Read more trending news 

On Wednesday, a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland left numerous dead and injured. The suspect has been identified as Nikolas Cruz, a former student, The Associated Press reported.

NeighborhoodScout ranked the Top 100 Safest Cities in the U.S. with a population of 25,000 or more based upon property and violent crime data. Parkland ranked 15th on NeighborhoodScout's list due to its low violent-crime rate.

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