Birmingham schools community mourns veteran teacher found shot to death

72-year-old Harry Berkowitz found shot to death inside his Franklin home; suspect later found dead in Royal Oak


The Birmingham Public Schools community is in shock over the murder of a longtime and well-respected teacher.

Harry Berkowitz, 72, invested 47 years in the school system. The past 18 were spent at West Maple Elementary where Berkowitz provided students help with reading.

"He never wanted to quit teaching. He was just very dedicated to teaching. He loved his kids. he was on the forefront of technology, hard working, loved his job," said fellow teacher Dorie Vier.

He is described as thoughtful man, someone who is willing to give. That's why it is so difficult to understand why someone would kill the beloved teacher.

Berkowitz was shot dead inside his Franklin home on Tuesday. The shooter is a man who lived with him -- 33-year-old Thomas Matthews.

Read: Teacher found killed at Franklin home in apparent murder-suicide

Matthews spent hours barricaded inside a Royal Oak home before police found him in a bedroom dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

More: Franklin murder suspect found dead in Royal Oak home

Right now, little is known about Matthews. However, his brother spoke with Local 4 on Tuesday.

"It was a shock. It doesn't seem like this has happened. This does not fit his character," his brother said.

As police piece together the investigation, a community mourns the loss of one of their favorites.

"We'll miss him dearly. Good friend, good peer, teacher and someone you could look up to in the world of education," said Vier.

Grief counselors will be available for all students and staff at the Birmingham schools.

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