"Everybody's very shocked. I know even today when I read the news, I just get goose bumps because I just can't believe it," said former classmate Somer Holland.
Chris Thomas shared classrooms with some students from elementary school until high school graduation in 2011. They say he put everyone else before himself.
"He was a very kind, caring person. But he was so joyous, in everything he did, it didn't matter what it was. He was very happy," Holland said.
"I just remember him being a kid that was always smiling. It seemed like Christopher was always smiling when you looked over there at him,” said Northview High School Band Director Larry Batchelor. “He seemed to be having a good time all the time, tried real hard, real respectful.”
A student leader, community volunteer and a member of the school band for several years, Chris left a mark on everyone he met.
"We're going to miss him. Somebody like that who adds joy to everybody's life, you're going to miss somebody like that,” Batchelor said.
"It's a person that was taken too soon, way too soon from here. Chris had some great things going, and he was going to do big things," Dothan Technical Center Guidance Counselor Emily Peluso said.
His legacy of service continued at the University of South Alabama. Students say he was the Vice President and Financial Director of Jaguar Productions, organizing campus events. They say it's a devastating loss.
"Our prayers are with his family. I know they're going through a hard time. Chris was very friendly and had a huge group of friends. He was very, very close to them, so our prayers go out to them,” said Peluso.
The university is organizing a vigil in Chris' memory. It will be held at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow night at the USA campus.