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Thousands gather to honor fallen CHP officer

June 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
California Highway Patrol Officer Tom Coleman, who was killed during a high-speed pursuit, was honored in a public memorial at the Redlands Bowl on Thursday.There was a massive show of support from law enforcement all across the country, with motorcycle officers attending the memorial from California cities like Anaheim, San Diego and Fresno, as well as other states, such as Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Missouri and even New Jersey.

It's estimated that close to 2,000 officers came to honor the fallen officer.

A procession escorted Coleman's casket into the Redlands Bowl just before 10 a.m. Coleman, known as Hank, was only 33 years old. He leaves behind his wife Jamie and two young children.

"You are extraordinarily missed, and eternally loved," Mrs. Coleman said. "Thank you for always telling me how much you loved me no matter how much you felt it, sometimes 10 times a day."

Along with a rifle salute and the playing of taps, there was a special thought offered by Coleman's friend, Officer Shane Hughes.

"I would like to leave you with this thought," Hughes said. "If you wear a uniform, please call your families often. Please tell your spouse and your children every day that you love them before you leave for your shift."

Coleman grew up in West Covina, attended Damien High School and served four-and-a-half years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the CHP eight years ago.

Coleman was killed while in pursuit of a suspect, Richard Perez, who would not pull over when Coleman tried to stop him for a seatbelt violation. Perez, 20, allegedly sped away, and three minutes later, Coleman was killed when his motorcycle struck a big rig. Perez was charged with second-degree murder on Monday.

"There's an inherent risk with any law enforcement job, and riding a motorcycle for the department is no different," said Hughes. "We can honor Tom and all who have ridden in the past by continuing to ride."

Colleagues said he was known for his big hugs, called the "Coleman hugs." His chief said Coleman loved his job, was good at it and was proud of what he did.

"He died living his dream. This is what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a motor officer for the CHP," said friend John Ferguson. "You guys had a great, great officer."


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