WEB EXCLUSIVE: Man charged with stealing from visiting youth gro - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Man charged with stealing from visiting youth group

(WMC-TV) - Members of a college youth group from Iowa were the victims of a crime during their spring break mission trip in Memphis Tuesday.

While the college students from Parkview Church of Iowa City, Iowa were out fixing the Zion Christian cemetery, Lonnie Coleman is said to have helped himself to their things.

A witness saw Coleman take two garbage bags from Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on Bellevue to his car.  The group was staying at the church.

Coleman was in the church serving his community service hours for a previous drug charge.

There were 24 victims.  Police said Coleman took everything he could get his hands on, including electronics, makeup, hair supplies, and clothes.

With police on the scene, the witness, who knew the suspect, called and told him to return to the church.

Once back on church property, Coleman told police he had just wanted to take an iPad, but got greedy and took much more.  He also told police he did not think he could be charged since he had returned the property.

The majority of the victims did not press charges, but a few of them did.

"Some of the people decided to forgive this guy in their heart, but thought it was best to let the justice system carry it out the way it is," said college pastor with Parkview Church Scott Gaskill.

Gaskill said they were able to meet the suspect's father, who prayed with them for healing.  The group also prayed that this experience is not how they remember Memphis.

"I don't think it speaks to the character of your city at all," said Gaskill.

Despite the theft, the group plans to be back in Memphis next spring break and could make another mission trip to the city this summer.

"Just to see what happened with these missionaries forgiving him, it helps us to know that Christ is still alive," said Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church member Cherron Chestnut.

Coleman is charged with eight counts of theft of property.  It would have been much more had the other victims pressed charges.

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