Skip to main content

Family of Iowa suspect urges prayers after coach's killing

  • Story Highlights
  • Mark Becker accused of murder in death of longtime football coach Ed Thomas
  • Becker's family "wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the Thomas family"
  • Becker is a former football player, former student at coach's high school
  • "It's just too early to speculate" on motive for shooting, law enforcement official says
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- The family of a man suspected of fatally shooting an Iowa football coach urged the community Thursday to pray for the victim's family.

Ed Thomas had been with the school district for more than 30 years and was well-known in the region.

Ed Thomas had been with the school district for more than 30 years and was well-known in the region.

Mark Becker, 24, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Ed Thomas, 58, a longtime football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School.

Investigators believe Becker walked into the school's weight room, where Thomas was overseeing athletes' training Wednesday morning, and shot him several times as about 20 horrified students looked on. Thomas was flown to a hospital, where he later died.

"Our family wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the Thomas family," the Becker family said in a statement to CNN television affiliate KWWL.

The community has lost an icon, a leader and a teacher, the statement said.

"Our family asks for prayer for the Thomas family, our community, our school and our students as they go through the next days, weeks and years ahead."

Becker is a former student at Aplington-Parkersburg, which is about 100 miles northeast of Des Moines, and a former football player, authorities said.

"It's just too early to speculate" on a motive for the shooting, said Kevin Winker, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

The suspect had "recent contact" with police in Cedar Falls, about 25 miles east of Parkersburg, authorities said.

On Saturday, Becker led police on a high-speed chase after he allegedly broke into a man's house, according to a statement from the division.

Becker was arrested after a pursuit that reached speeds of more than 80 mph, Cedar Falls police said.

He was taken into custody, but authorities determined he needed medical attention the next morning, and he was taken to a hospital. Police asked to be notified when he was released, the statement said.

Becker was released Tuesday and spent the night at his parents' Parkersburg home before heading to the high school Wednesday morning, the division said.

Law enforcement officials said they were unaware that Becker had been released.

"Cedar Falls police was awaiting notification that the subject was to be released from custody in order to arrest Becker and file the charges relevant to the Cedar Falls incident," a police statement said.

He faces felony charges of criminal mischief and eluding authorities, along with traffic offenses, in the Saturday incident, Cedar Falls police said.

Winker would not provide further details on why Becker was transported to the hospital.

A 911 call came in at 7:47 a.m. Wednesday regarding the high school shooting, the Division of Criminal Investigation said. Becker was arrested in the driveway of his parents' home without incident.

Thomas had been with the school district since 1975 and was a regionally well-known coach, said district Superintendent Jon Thompson.

The coach's son, Aaron Thomas, said Wednesday that his father would want to be remembered not only as a coach, teacher and father, but also for his involvement in his church, calling him "a man of deep faith who touched many lives."

"God always has a reason," he said. "At this time, it's very tough for us to understand that."

CNN's Kara Devlin contributed to this report.

All About IowaCedar FallsShootings

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print