The two students who were gunned down in their New Mexico high school on Thursday have been identified.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims of the shooting at Aztec High School as 18-year-old football player Francisco “Paco” Fernandez and 17-year-old cheerleader Casey Marquez.
The shooter, 21-year-old former student William Atchison, was also killed following his rampage throughout the halls of the school Thursday morning.
Atchison entered the school with a 9 mm pistol and multiple loaded magazines. According to a thumb drive police recovered from his clothing, the shooter planned to “go apes— and then blow my brains out,” PEOPLE reports.
Authorities do not believe Atchison knew either of the victims.
New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas praised Fernandez as a hero during a news conference Friday, sharing that the shots that killed him alerted the school to the presence of an active shooter, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
“I’ll give you my opinion, regarding Paco: It was an unfortunate circumstance that he entered that bathroom, but by doing so he saved lives,” Kassetas said. “I believe the suspect would have armed himself with a weapon and walked right into a classroom, which would have been worse. That in itself, that kid is a hero.”
Football coach and history teacher Matt Steinfeldt also remembered Fernandez and Marquez in a favorable light, telling the Journal he was “utterly devastated” to hear of his students’ passing.
“Once [Fernandez] put his mind to something he would work extremely hard,” Steinfeldt said. “And, more than anything, I thought he developed great relationships with people.”
Marquez was “a warm spirit with a big smile and a dancer at heart,” he said.
The Aztec community held a candlelight vigil on the night of the shooting, which drew hundreds of mourners to the town’s Minium Park.0comments
Throughout the town, signs read “Aztec strong” and “Pray for Aztec.”
“It’s a tragedy, but it’s also an amazing thing to see how great people really are,” Steinfeldt said. “Even though we are hurting right now, we know we are going to get through this because everybody is going to stand together.”