When the bullets began flying, Willis May, head football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was doing one of the things that football coaches do when it is not football season.
“I had two college coaches there. They were recruiting four of my guys. I had them in my office. They were talking. The two college coaches were talking to my kids and I was kind of standing outside and all of a sudden it went down,” he said.
May said a fire alarm was pulled and then he heard gunshots.
“I heard on the radio ‘Was that a firecracker?’ ” May said.
Aaron Feis responded: “That was no firecracker.”
Shortly afterward, Assistant Principal Winfred Porter called for a Code Red.
“That just means lockdown,” May said. “Lock down everything.”
May locked down the football players and the coaches who were in his office and then locked down the whole P.E. area.
He then proceeded to the hallway to see if he could see anything going on. He heard more gunfire.
“I don’t want to be in the hallway because all anyone has to do is come around the building and see me,” May said. “I’d be in an opening.”
May said he then went into the gym and entered the ticket booth, which has glass windows facing the 1200 building.
“All I saw was some of our administrators and security on a golf cart and they’re ducking,” May said. “I couldn’t see the shooter or coach Feis. I couldn’t see any of them.”
(Feis, May’s assistant, was shot and killed in the Wednesday’s massacre. Witnesses said he ran toward the mayhem when the shooting began — and that he was mortally wounded while standing between the gunman and a group of students, trying to protect them.)
May said the shooting couldn’t have lasted more than 10 minutes.
“It was just rapid,” May said. “He was out of there quickly, maybe 10 minutes, because in that time, the building was overtaken by BSO and SWAT.”
When he got back to his office: The college coaches are freaking out a little bit. The kids don’t want them to know what happened. They’re on their phones talking to their parents. They said they saw the kid walk by my window — the shooter. He didn’t have a gun. He didn’t have anything. He went and blended in. He walked by the window, by the basketball courts, and took the back toward the Sawgrass [Expressway], toward the canal, and kind of blended in with all the kids that were being evacuated.”
“I had a football player even tell me that he [the shooter] actually walked home with one of his friends. He walked pretty far before one of his friends said they were talking about college.”
During the course of the lockdown, May made what could have been a critical mistake.
“When we’re locked down, you can’t get from one room to another room without having your keys. As a matter of fact yesterday, I walked out of my room and left my keys on my desk. I was stuck in the hallway,” he said. “I had to call the girls basketball coach who was in the girls locker room so that I could have her keys so I could get back into my locker room to my office so I could get my keys.”
It was later when May learned the details, including the identity of the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He was known to the coaching staff.
“I knew who he was just because a lot of our coaches have had problems with him as far as he’s been a trouble maker. He was a butthole to one of our coaches and wasn’t very nice to the coach. From what I understand, the kid wasn’t going to win awards for his attitude.”