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Ex-player charged in slaying of Iowa coach


Former football player allegedly fired several times; no one else hurt

NBC News and news services
updated 1:41 p.m. ET, Wed., June 24, 2009

DES MOINES, Iowa - Police have charged a 24-year-old former player in the fatal shooting of a prominent Iowa high school football coach.

Police say Mark Becker shot Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas several times at about 8 a.m. Wednesday in the school's weight room. Authorities say students were in the room when Thomas was shot, but no one else was injured.

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

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

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.

Success on the gridiron
Thomas, 58, 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, Mich., 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.

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