Baseball coach mourns death of 18-year-old Christopher Thompson after shootout with deputies

PALM SPRINGS, Fla. -- Pat Rothenburg always starts baseball practice with a speech, but Monday night's message to his 14-year-old ball players in Palm Springs had a different feeling.

"If you ever have a problem that you feel you can't talk to mom and dad, you find someone to talk to," said Rothenburg.

Friday afternoon, deputies said one of his former ballplayers, Chris Thompson, 18, squared-off with deputies after a 911 call from someone saying there was a man in the Palm Beach County Credit Union parking lot with a rifle.

Deputies say Thompson fired first, that both sides shot numerous times, and that Thompson was killed.

Police haven't said what their investigation into Thompson has shown.

"We're all trying to understand, 'Why did he do this, how did he get there?'" said Rothenburg.

Rothenburg remembers Thompson for his best qualities.

Thompson was friends with Rothenburg's own sons.

"I never saw him angry. I never saw him cuss," said Rothenburg. "I never saw him talk back to his parents."

The last time Rothenburg saw Thompson was three weeks ago during a chance meeting at the ball field.

"He looked great," recalled Rothenburg. "There was no indication that he was distressed, or a troubled mind. He was upbeat, gregarious."

For a coach who prides himself on teaching life lessons, he said this one hurts.

"Could I have made a difference? We hadn't been in regular touch lately. Maybe I would have seen something. Everything I'm hearing, nobody saw this coming. It's just not Chris Thompson," said Rothenburg. "I have no idea what happened.

Thompson, who attended Forest Hill High School, recently withdrew from Palm Beach State College. He was pulled out by parents to be home-schooled.

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