Former coaches and teachers remember slain Des Moines police officer Tony Beminio, a state champion wrestler and all-state football player at Iowa City West, as a hard worker and loyal teammate who made a life of protecting others.
“He was our power tackle. We ran 80 percent of our plays behind him,” said Dan Dvorak, Tiffin Elementary principal who was an assistant West High football coach in the 1990s.
“You feel so much for Tony’s family and the Des Moines Police Department,” Dvorak said Wednesday. “These senseless killing — when are they going to stop?”
Beminio, a Des Moines police officer since 2005, and Justin Martin, an Urbandale police officer hired in 2015, were gunned down in “ambush-style” killings early Wednesday while on patrol.
Scott Michael Greene, 46, of Urbandale was taken into custody around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in connection with the shootings. Motive is unclear.
Beminio and his family moved to Iowa City from Eagle Grove, in western Iowa, in 1994, when he was a sophomore, recalled Scott Williamson, head West wrestling coach at that time and now Sioux Central superintendent.
“He wanted to succeed and was willing to be pushed to succeed,” Williamson said.
At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Beminio was a heavyweight with explosive energy and strong hips — which made him a natural at Greco-Roman wrestling, which Beminio did after high school, Williamson said.
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Beminio won the state high school heavyweight title in 1996, helping launch a strong wrestling tradition at West. Beminio and his classmates had a similar effect on West High football, Dvorak said.
“In 1995, we won a state title. We went 13-0 that year with nine shutouts,” Dvorak said. One of those shutouts was the 42-to-0 Class 4A championship game against West Des Moines Dowling.
“Tony was part of laying a foundation for future success of West High football,” Dvorak said.
Beminio played football and wrestled for the University of Northern Iowa before transferring to Morningside College, in Sioux City, to play football in 1998, according to Gazette reports.
Beminio and Martin both earned a criminal justice degree from Simpson College, with Beminio graduating in 2001, the college reported Wednesday.
“The loss of any police officer in such a senseless act of violence is a tragedy,” Simpson President Jay Simmons said. “This is almost too much to bear. We all extend our deepest sympathy to the families of Anthony and Justin. We consider them part of our family, too.”
Williamson wasn’t surprised Beminio went into police work.
“His dad was a police officer,” he said.
Williamson remembers running into Beminio when Beminio was a police officer in Carlisle. News of the police shooting Wednesday was horrible, but learning his former athlete was one of the officers gunned down was like a punch in the gut, Williamson said.
“It brings it all so much closer to home.”