Ed Thomas, Iowa HS Football Coach, Killed by Former Player

A popular high school football coach in Iowa was killed this morning by a former player who was supposed to have been in a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Ed Thomas, 58, was in the Aplington-Parkersburg High School weight room at approximately 7:45 a.m. when 24-year-old Mark Becker allegedly came in and began firing a handgun, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

The weight room was crowded with about 20 high school football players preparing for the fall season, but none of them were hurt.

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Becker has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Thomas and is currently being held at the Butler County jail. The shooter's motive is still unknown.

Becker is a former student of Aplington-Parkersburg High School and played on one of Thomas' football teams, officials said.

Kevin Winker, assistant director of the Iowa Divison of Criminal Investigation, told the Associated Press that Becker's "entire past is being looked at."

Becker was arrested without incident at his parents' home in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The suspect was supposed to be taken to a hospital psychiatric unit after breaking into a neighbor's home and leading police on a high-speed car chase Saturday night, according to Jeff Jacobson, a special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations.

Jacobson said that authorities decided early Sunday morning that Becker needed medical attention and took him to a hospital.

"Law enforcement requested prior notification before he was released," said Jacobson. "On Tuesday, June 23, Becker spent the night at his parents' home. Law enforcement was unaware he had been released."

Today's arrest is not the first time Becker has run into trouble with the law. Just last weekend, Becker was arrested for speeding and reckless driving, and earlier this year he pleaded guilty to assault, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal mischief, according to online court documents. He was also charged with underage possession of alcohol in August 2004.

Calls to Thomas' family as well as to the school were not immediately returned.

At a press conference today, Thomas' 30-year-old son Aaron Thomas spoke on behalf of the family.

"Thanks everyone for the thoughts and prayers and concerns for our family," said Aaron Thomas.

"In the midst of our grief we are greatly appreciative of our friends and neighbors," he said. "Without a doubt we're going to miss him. I feel very fortunate to have been his son."

Ed Thomas' Son Says Pray for Shooter's Family

Aaron Thomas also asked for people to pray for the Becker family.

"We express our concern and compassion for the Becker family," said Aaron Thomas. "We ask that people pray for them as well and take time to comfort and be with them as they are also going through a lot."

School Superintendent Jon Thompson told the Des Moines Register that he was "thankful none of the other students were injured.

"I've sobbed. I've cried. I've hugged my son. It's a senseless deal," Thompson told the paper.

At a press conference earlier today, Thompson said that Thomas had several chances to leave the school for other coaching opportunities, but always declined the offers.

"Ed had chances to move on," said Thompson. "Ed would have gone on to the collegiate level or larger schools within our states or borders."

But instead of leaving the 1,000-person town of Parkersburg, Thomas became an even bigger part of the community.

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