A son of the slain Aplington-Parkersburg football coach spoke moments ago at a news conference in Parkersburg, asking for prayers for the family of the man who has been charged with shooting the coach to death. Aaron Thomas described his father, Ed Thomas, as a man of deep faith.
"Many knew my father as a teacher and as a coach. I think…the thing he was most proud of was his involvement in the church as he was an elder of the First Congregational Church in Parkersburg, a man of deep faith who touched people’s lived not only on the football field," Thomas said as he stood behind a bank of microphones.
Flowers and other memorials have been placed on what years ago became known as the "Sacred Acre" — the field where Thomas led the Aplington-Parkersburg football team for 34 seasons.
"We especially thank the people of Parkersburg for their devotion to our family, all the overwhelming support of our family during this tragedy," Thomas said. "…In the midst of our grief, we are greatly appreciative of our friends and neighbors in the community of Parkersburg and the school of A.P. for all they have done for us."
Aaron Thomas is one of two sons of the 58-year-old football coach. "We also want to make sure we express our concern and our compassion for the Becker family," Thomas said. "We ask that people to pray for them as well and that people take time to comfort and be with them through this as they are also going through a lot."
Twenty-four-year-old Mark Becker of Parkersburg is charged with first-degree murder. Authorities say he walked into the weight room on the high school grounds and shot coach Thomas with a handgun.
"God always has a reason. At this time it’s very tough for us to understand that," Aaron Thomas said this afternoon. "But with the timing, getting through the tornado, the things he was able to do here in the rebuilding process, with the many young people he’s touched, the fellow faculty members he’s touched, and the many coaches he’s worked with, I know that my father’s legacy not only though those people, but my brother and myself and my three boys, will live on."
Aaron Thomas said this to close. "without a doubt we’re going to miss him. We will have many great memories to share and to think back upon as we were lucky to have the father we had for the 58 years that he lived and, for me, the 30 years he was my father," Aaron Thomas said. "I feel very fortunate to be the son of Ed Thomas."
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation also released a statement this afternoon on the events involving law officers leading up to the shooting:
Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 9:30 p.m. Mark Becker led authorities on a high speed chase that began in Cedar Falls after allegedly breaking into a man’s house. Parkersburg Police located Becker and he attempted to elude officers at that time. At the conclusion of the pursuit he was taken into custody by law enforcement.
During the early morning of June 21, 2009 law enforcement determined that Becker needed medical attention and was transported to Covenant Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. Law enforcement requested prior notification before Becker was released. On Tuesday, June 23, 2009, after being released from the hospital, Becker spent the night at his parents’ residence in rural Parkersburg.
Law enforcement was unaware that Becker had been released. On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, Becker arrived at the Aplington-Parkersburg High School, entered the weight room and shot Ed Thomas multiple times. Approximately 20 students were in the weight room when the shooting occurred.
At 7:47 a.m. a 9-1-1 call was made notifying authorities of the shooting. After shooting Ed Thomas, Becker left the scene in a 1991 Blue Chevy Lumina and was located by Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson in the driveway of his parents’ residence. He was taken into custody without incident.
If anyone has additional information on Mark Becker’s activities prior to him entering the Parkersburg High School weight room or immediately following the shooting, please contact the Butler County Sheriff’s Office at 319-267-2410.