Parkersburg, Iowa – A high school coach who helped launch several professional football careers was gunned down in front of students Wednesday by a former player who was to have been taken to a psychiatric ward days earlier, authorities said.
Mark Becker, who was to have gone to the hospital psychiatric ward after allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase Saturday, unloaded several rounds into Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas and was arrested in the driveway of his parents’ home soon afterward, said Kevin Winker, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Winker said he couldn’t discuss what Becker’s motive might have been.
School was not in session, and Becker did not threaten any of the students who were in the weight room at the time participating in an offseason workout, Winker said.
Thomas, 58, died at a Waterloo hospital. His shooting stunned the rural community of 1,800 residents 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, and it reverberated through NFL circles, where he was remembered as much for his religious faith as his winning record.
Anti-gang activist faces charges
Los Angeles – A nationally known anti-gang activist was arrested Wednesday on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges stemming from his own alleged involvement in gang activity.
Alex Sanchez, executive director of Homies Unidos, a gang-intervention nonprofit with offices in Los Angeles and El Salvador, was among two dozen alleged members or associates of the Mara Salvatrucha gang charged in a 66-page indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The defendants, with monikers such as Creeper, Grinch, Pain and Tears, were involved in a variety of crimes, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion and drug trafficking, over a 15-year period, the indictment alleges. Among the alleged crimes was a plot to kill a Los Angeles Police Department detective who specialized in investigating the gang, authorities said. Gang members had gone so far as to choose a handgun with which to kill Detective Frank Flores, authorities allege, but police discovered and thwarted the plot.
Pardon sought for boxer Johnson
Washington – The Senate urged President Barack Obama Wednesday to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.
Senators approved the resolution by voice vote; it now goes to the House.
Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908 – 100 years before Obama was elected the nation’s first black president.
The boxer was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed.
The resolution was sponsored by Obama’s 2008 opponent, Arizona Republican John McCain. Similar resolutions offered in 2004 and last year failed to pass both chambers of Congress.