Cops make arrest, then bring groceries
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
BY THERESA D. Mcclellan
THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
GRAND RAPIDS -- Hours before he allegedly entered a local bank with a toy gun, tears fell from Lamont Davenport's face as he listened to his 2-year-old son cry for something to eat from the empty cupboards of his family's Southwest Side home.
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In the 13 years she has known him, 40-year-old Ilyse Davenport had never seen her 28-year-old husband cry. She said she watched him grow frustrated in the weeks before the March 2 robbery as bill collectors called daily, threatening to cut off utilities to their Campau Commons apartment.
She said he despaired as his biweekly checks from sporadic work as a security guard were not enough to cover food and expenses for the couple and their three children.
"I told him we had a few cans of food. I could stretch it till he got paid in two weeks. But hearing Jacob cry was too much for him," said his wife. "He cried when he said, 'I can't even get bread for my babies.' "
Grand Rapids police say Lamont Davenport robbed the Bank One branch at 2430 Eastern Ave. SE and was quickly apprehended when he crashed his car into a snowbank. But when officers quizzed him about his motive, Davenport told Detective Jim Jorgensen something the 15-year veteran had not heard before -- he said he stole to get food for his family.
Police confirmed this by checking Davenport's apartment.
"They didn't have much in the way of food. The fridge and freezer were pretty empty, and his wife is in poor health," Jorgensen said.
"Sometimes people feel they're backed into corners and can't see the forest for the trees."
While the police knew there were options the family could have turned to other than crime, they felt they could not leave Davenport's wife and children in that situation. So police made an after-hours call to a local food bank and delivered six bags of groceries and personal items to Ilyse Davenport and her three children, ages 2, 7 and 13.
"The true thing is that the kids didn't have any food in the house. If that doesn't touch you, nothing will," said Sgt. Chris Postma.
"It was just the right thing to do. Here was a family in need. The husband did wrong, but the wife and kids are not a part of that," Jorgensen said.
Police also left the family with the United Way's 2-1-1 hot line number as a way to contact local social service agencies for further help.
Ilyse Davenport is struggling in her husband's absence. She said her husband handled the money and paid the bills in their marriage, while she handled the household chores. She's never learned to drive and said she didn't know how to get her family help. She is an asthmatic and was hospitalized last month with medical problems.
They family moved to Grand Rapids last August, in part to get away from the gangs of Chicago. "We wanted to give the family a better life," she said.
When they struggled with their bills at a rental home on Prospect Avenue NE, Lamont Davenport got them into the more affordable public housing of Campau Commons in January. She still hasn't met many people, she said.
When things got tight, she said she thought he would have asked someone for help.
"He's proud and I thought he'd ask someone from work, or maybe knock on a neighbor's door for a little help. He's the kind of man who works for what he needs," she said.
Police said Lamont Davenport was distraught when he was arrested.
"He knew he'd made an error and he obviously was caught red-handed. I'll give him credit, he 'fessed up to what happened," Jorgensen said.
Davenport remains in federal custody. He is to appear in federal court again Monday.
That should add a little bit of perspective.