UPDATE: Former Player Arrested for Shooting Iowa Football Coach

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Police have charged a 24-year-old former player in the fatal shooting of a prominent Iowa high school football coach. The coach was shot in the school's weight room early Wednesday.

Former player Mark Becker shot Aplington-Parkersburg High School coach Ed Thomas at about 8 a.m. with about 50 students in the school, including several in the weight room at the time. School was not in session, and no one else was injured in the attack.

Police say Becker was supposed to have been taken to a hospital psychiatric ward after leading police on a car chase Saturday night, and taking a baseball bat to a Cedar Falls home.

Thomas, the 2005 NFL high school football coach of the year, was airlifted to a hospital and died, his family said in a statement.

Police say Becker was arrested shortly after the shooting. He is charged with first-degree murder and is being held in Butler County jail.

The district's superintendent and a guidance counselor were meeting with students who were in the weight room at the time of the shooting.

"No kids were hurt, we're thankful for that," Superintendent Jon Thompson told KOEL radio. "They did witness this and so we have counselors at the site to talk with the kids."

The school is in Parkersburg, about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines.

Thomas compiled a career record of 292-84 in 37 seasons as a head coach, 34 of them at Aplington-Parkersburg, and was one of the most well-known high school football coaches in Iowa.

He was honored as the NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2005, and four of his former players are in the NFL: Green Bay's Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville's Brad Meester, Detroit's Jared DeVries and Denver's Casey Wiegmann.

DeVries, a defensive end with the Lions, walked off the practice field in Allen Park, Michigan, toward the end of its morning practice, apparently shaken.

Team officials said DeVries was not immediately available for comment.

Thomas made national headlines last year when he insisted that the high school's football field, named in his honor, be rebuilt as a way to help restore community pride in Parkersburg after it was hit by a powerful tornado in May 2008 that killed six people and destroyed the high school.

"A lot of people know coach Thomas for his success as a football coach, but a lot of people here locally know him as a person, as a dad and grandfather, and that's where our thoughts are right now, with coach Thomas," said Superintendent Thompson.

Toby Lorenzen, head coach at Central Lyon High School in Rock Rapids in northwest Iowa, said the killing was a shock to people in high school football programs throughout Iowa.

"He was one of the most down to earth, well respected coaches around."

Richard Wulkow, executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, said in a statement that Thomas embodied what a coach should be.

"He will be forever remembered not so much for his many wins on the field, but for the exemplary manner in which he coached kids and led the Aplington-Parkersburg community and school. This was especially true last spring and summer as they rebuilt from a devastating tornado."

In 2005, a Texas high school football coach was shot by an angry parent who walked into the school fieldhouse and fired a single bullet into Gary Joe Kinne's stomach. The gunman's son played on the Canton High School football team with Kinne's son, who was the star quarterback.

Kinne survived. The shooter, Jeff Doyal Robertson, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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