A 15-year-old football player says the gunman who shot his coach to death last June pointed the gun at him first. Testimony began Friday in the first degree murder trial of 24-year-old Mark Becker who is accused of shooting Aplington-Parkersburg coach Ed Thomas to death.
Fifteen-year-old Brandon Simkins was standing next to the coach when Becker entered the football team’s weight room that morning and the teenager testified that Becker first pointed the gun at his head.
The prosecutor asked Simkins what his reaction was. “I thought I was dead,” Simkins replied. Simkins said he closed his eyes, then opened them again when he heard the gunshots. Simkins saw his coach fall to the ground.
“A lot of people kind of froze and didn’t know what to do,” Simkins said, adding everyone started running for the door. Nineteen other Aplington-Parkersburg students were in the weight training room that morning testified about the shooting yesterday.
Six of the students testified yesterday, including 16-year-old Matt Wicks, who turned toward a sound he originally thought was someone dropping weights on the ground.
“When Thomas was on the ground, (Becker) went over to him, cursed, yelled and kicked him,” Wicks said. Becker’s trial opened with prosecutor arguing Becker made a “conscious choice” to shoot Becker. Becker’s defense team told the jury Becker was hearing voices and believed his former coach was “literally Satan” on the day of the shooting.
Becker has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Members of Becker’s family were in the courtroom for Friday’s testimony. Members of the Thomas family were there, too, sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom. The trial will resume Tuesday.
By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids