08/08/06 — Col. Coleman gets official 'ride' to his city retirement party

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Col. Coleman gets official 'ride' to his city retirement party

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 8, 2006 1:47 PM

As retiring Col. Lennie Coleman was escorted up the stairs of City Hall by Goldsboro police and members of the 4th Fighter Wing's leadership, he knew his "arrest" nearly an hour earlier on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was all in good fun.

In what they called a "last ditch effort" to keep him in town, city and base officials ordered a mock-arrest of Coleman Monday. As Goldsboro police Chief Tim Bell and Capt. Al King reached the building's second floor with their prisoner, those who gathered to wish their friend a relaxing retirement laughed and cheered.

When Coleman reached the end of the hallway, a reception was waiting for him -- friends, family and refreshments.

Bell said the arrest was made with ease and that Coleman came without a fight.

"We didn't have to spray him," he told the crowd. "He came peacefully."

Those in the room shared a laugh.

"I didn't resist," Coleman said, holding his hands in the air, still cuffed. "Wow, Monday has gotten off to a great start."

As King presented his "dear friend" with a key to the city -- and handcuffs -- he told the crowd it was payback.

"Whenever we needed anything, Lennie always came to the rescue," King said. "Anytime the city had a problem or something we wanted the base to do for us, to be a part of, I never even hesitated."

Coleman called receiving the key, "cool" and thanked King and the other guests for all they do for the Air Force.

"The men and women who make up Goldsboro have opened their arms to the men and women of Seymour Johnson," he said. "For that, we thank you. I'm humbled. This is just incredible."

The key to the city wasn't the only gift for Coleman either. Bell presented him with a bag of assorted goods from the police department and an American flag cake that read: "You're Busted."

The reception was full of laughter and smiles -- a reflection of the joy Coleman radiates and brings out of others, King said.

"I tried to talk them out of (the arrest)," a grinning King said.

But Coleman knew his friend better than that.

"I'll bet you did," he replied.

4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mike Holmes and Col. Chuck Duke were also on hand for the reception. Holmes told Coleman he is glad to see the city recognize its friendship with the retiring commander of the 4th Mission Support Group.

"I'm really happy you all got a chance to see him, " Holmes told those who gathered. "I know he's gone above and beyond to become a great friend to the city of Goldsboro."

As the reception drew closer to its end, Maj. Mike Hopper added to the spirit of fun at the event.

"We only provide transportation one way," he told Coleman. "We'll take you to jail but you have to find your own way home."