VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Before he was known as one of the dozen victims killed in Friday’s mass shooting, Keith Cox was known as a hero.

Christi Dewar was one of the city employees at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in Building 2 that was spared from the rampage — and she says she owes it to her late friend, Cox.

It began with popping sounds. Dewar says she thought it was the sound of construction.

But then Dewar saw people running down the halls, yelling “active shooter!” She and seven other people began to run too. That’s when they came across Cox.

“He said ‘get in Lori’s office now. Barricade the office. Get in there.’ and I said ‘come on Keith’ and he said ‘I gotta check on everybody else.’ And we closed and locked the door and we pushed the cabinet up against the door and it was not too long after that DeWayne tried to come in and he fired four shots. And I looked out and two of the shots had almost come through the cabinet, the back of the cabinet,” said Christi.

Virginia Beach Police identified the shooting suspect as longtime city employee DeWayne Craddock, 40, who had submitted his resignation earlier that day.

After the gunfire stopped, Dewar says police came to escort them out of the building.

“They took us down the south stairwell. There was a body there and I didn’t know who it was, couldn’t tell. There’s so much blood everywhere and I started just shaking and crying, just heaving,” said Dewar. “The officer said ‘you’re strong, you can do this. You need to step over and come with me.’ I said ‘I can’t.’ He said ‘yes you can.’ I found out later that the person I had to step over was one of my friends Missy.”

After the shooting, Dewar reached out to Cox’s parents. She wanted to let them know how brave their son was.

Dewar said, “If it wasn’t for him there would have been several more people that had perished. He was a hero. A guardian angel that walked this earth that didn’t deserve to leave us so soon.”