Witness to murder remembers Ed Thomas - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Witness to murder remembers Ed Thomas

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Brandon Simkins can't forget June 24, 2009. 15-years-old at the time, he was in the Aplington-Parkersburg High School weight room.

"It was slowmotionm, but it all happened so fast," Simkins, 20, said. "I was standing there talking to Coach and then Mark walked in. I didn't recognize him, I thought he was a worker for one of the schools."

It was Mark Becker, a former student of Ed Thomas. He was mentally unstable at the time, and had just been released from the hospital after leading officers on a high speed chase.

First, Becker pointed the gun at Simkins, who closed his eyes, and waited.

"I heard a gunshot," Simkins testified in 2010. "I opened my eyes and saw Coach fall."

The Thomas family and so many others were hurt by Becker's actions, including his parents.

"He was a great friend," Dave Becker, Mark's father, said. "It was hard. I have very fond memories of Coach."

Thomas was killed, but Simkins escaped. Five years, later, he remembers how Coach Thomas left his mark on all the children he came in contact with. Even after his death, Simkins said the lessons of respect,responsibilityy andcommitmentt remain.

"He didn't judge a book by its cover," he said. "He had the God-given ability to reach down into an individual and bring them to their fullest potential, which was a special gift and it's just the type of man he was."

"He helped young men grow up to have strong morals, and just be good guys," said another former player, after the shooting. "He was a lot more than football."

That sentiment is shared by the rival teams that lined the streets to honor Coach back in 2009, and the former A-P players that carried his casket.

That's why Simkins says he tries to live what Coach taught him.

"That's what I want to do," he said. "Spread his word and what he stood for and believed in."

Becker was convicted of murder, and will spend the rest of his life in prison. Still, so many have asked, why?

Simkins said we'll likely never know, but feels it's become more clear with time, in the close connection Thomas shared with so many that needed him.

"It's the people that are closest to you that you want to take things out on," he said. "He was just a guy that would give you the shirt off his back. I believe that if he knew he was going to die helping you, he'd be the man to die helping you."

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