Michael Coleman joined the Sheriff’s Office as a cadet in 1972, being sworn-in by Sheriff Michael N. Canlis. A year later he was promoted to deputy, his proud father Floyd pinning the gold star, l on Mike’s chest.
Mike joined several other family members who were already in the department. His uncle, William Coleman, was a veteran lieutenant. Mike’s father Floyd had been a member of the sheriff’s auxiliary since 1954 and served as the department’s Rangemaster. Uncle Alvin Coleman, a brother of Floyd and William, had also served on the auxiliary at one time. Mike’s cousin Bill joined the department in 1973, and cousin Russ would follow suit in 1981. For the Colemans, it was a family affair.
After being promoted to deputy, Mike did the customary stint in the Custody Division before moving out to patrol. Michael was an outgoing person who took pride in his job and excelled at it. In 1977 he was named “Officer of the Year” at the annual ceremonies at the Italian Athletic Club.
Mike and his parents were very close, and they were proud of Michael’s accomplishments. Mike was proud of his dad, too. Although he was a part-time volunteer member of the Office, Floyd was made the Rangemaster. Floyd worked closely with department members, teaching young deputies the techniques necessary to properly use a firearm. Floyd was well known and highly regarded throughout the Office. Michael couldn’t have been happier about his dad.
After working in the Patrol Division for a number of years, Michael applied for a spot on the Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force. This specialized narcotics unit had been formed to battle the influx of illicit street drugs in the early 1970s. The unit was based out of the Stockton Police Department and was made up of officers from several police departments in the county, the Sheriff’s Office, and the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. Mike was appointed to the team in 1981 by Sheriff Frank Harty. Sheriff Harty commented that Michael was anxious to work in the Metro Narcotics Unit because he was concerned about the drug culture’s impact on young people.
On the afternoon of March 25, 1982, Deputy Coleman was partnered with Stockton Police Officer Larry Moore. They were working in the downtown Stockton area when they spotted a man for whom they had an outstanding warrant. They followed the suspect to his home in the 2400 block of East Acacia Street in the east Stockton area. They waited a period of time for the man to leave, but when he didn’t they decided to serve the warrant.
Coleman and Moore drove to a nearby store parking lot and contacted Sheriff’s Sergeant Michael Junker and Stockton Police Officer David Bentz to assist them in serving the warrant. Plans were made for the two SPD officers to make contact with the suspect at the front door. Sgt. Junker and Deputy Coleman would back them.
The standard procedure called for officers serving warrants to wear a ballistic vest. Since Deputy Coleman did not have his vest with him, it was decided that he would stay back until the residence was secured, then he would come up and handle the reading of the search warrant and assist in searching the house. The officers put on windbreaker jackets with the word “POLICE” boldly printed on them and went to the house.
The property was surrounded by a short chain-link fence with a locked gate. The officers hopped the fence and went towards the front of the house. Officers Bentz and Moore went to the front door. It was initially open when they arrived, though there was a screen door which was shut. The officers knocked and loudly announced themselves as police officers with a search warrant. Several neighbors in the area clearly heard the announcement.
As the officers were in the process of announcing themselves, someone inside slammed the door. Because they believed people inside might be arming themselves or destroying evidence, Moore and Bentz attempted to kick open the door. After several unsuccessful tries, the door flung open and a woman, standing back several feet and holding a pistol in a two-handed grip opened fIfe on the officers.
Deputy Coleman was standing in the front yard, away from the front door. He was shot by the woman, the bullet entering under the right arm and passing through his body, severing his aorta. Although mortally wounded, Deputy Coleman returned fire, shooting all six rounds from his revolver before collapsing on the front lawn. The woman, Karen Frances Allen, was also shot during the gunfight and offered no more resistance. Michael was hurriedly transported to St. Joseph’s hospital in grave condition.
Floyd Coleman had been on duty at the department range, located at the jail complex in French Camp, at the time of the tragedy. Deputies Jerry Nakamura and John DeLeon were detailed to take Floyd to the hospital. Floyd sat in the front seat and listened intently to the radio as Deputy Nakamura sped to the hospital. As they … turned off of California street onto Maple, outside St. Joseph’s Hospital, Floyd leaned forward as though trying to listen more closely to the radio and collapsed. Floyd was rushed into an examination room in the Emergency, but it was too late. He had suffered a fatal heart attack. The doctor who pronounced Floyd dead then moved to an adjacent room, where five minutes later he pronounced Michael Coleman dead. Floyd was 70 years old when he died. Michael, a bachelor, was 30. Josephine Coleman was left behind to grieve the loss of her husband and son. Also left behind was her son, Thomas Faine. The deaths of Michael and Floyd Coleman deeply moved members of the community. In a tribute to Mike, the Stockton Holiday Inn displayed the following message on their marquee: “WE SALUTE DEPUTY COLEMAN, AMERICAN HERO.”
Father and son were laid to rest side by side at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Escalon following services at St. Anthony’s Church in Manteca. The funeral was largely attended by family, friends, and fellow officers from throughout the area.
In recognition of the Colemans, the Sheriff’s Office dedicated its firearms range in their name. Unfortunately, the range was demolished several years later in order to make room for an expanding department. The range has never been replaced.
Karen Frances Allen was convicted of capital murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 16 years.