By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Café on Vine is committed to serving the hungry despite a tragic series of events that began with an assault July 31 at the café and ended with the alleged assailant’s death.
The café will host a prayer service for healing at 3 p.m. Aug. 21 and invites the public to be a part of the healing process, said Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland, OSF, Café on Vine’s interim coordinator.
Many people — the café’s guests, its volunteers and staff, police officers and their families, the assailant’s family and friends and the central city neighborhood in Davenport — were impacted by the violent incidents, Sr. Westmoreland said.
“The whole community needs to be healed.”
The incidents prompting the prayer service began shortly after 11 a.m. July 31 at the café when Steve Mallory, a regular guest, reportedly and inexplicably assaulted volunteer Rylan Bebermeyer. The blow to the head knocked Bebermeyer unconscious, said Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a priest of the Diocese of Davenport and a founder of Café on Vine who is a frequent visitor there.
Mallory, whom Sr. Westmoreland described as a very troubled man, left the café and headed toward the Centennial Bridge on foot. A volunteer followed him and called police, she said. Davenport Police Officer Clif Anderson responded to the assault call. When the suspect refused to comply with orders, the officer fired a Taser, an electronic control device intended to subdue combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers. Mallory was not subdued and lunged at the officer, throwing a punch at him, a police video recording shows.
News reports state that Mallory bit the officer in the face, slammed his head on the concrete and was choking him when an East Moline, Ill., detective arrived on the scene to assist. But Mallory reportedly continued to assault Officer Anderson, who unholstered his gun and fatally shot Mallory. Officer Anderson will require plastic surgery because of the injuries to his face, news reports state. The incident is under investigation
Bebermeyer, 53, who is at home recovering from his injuries, says he has forgiven his assailant and plans to visit Café on Vine on Friday, Aug. 7. A music school teacher at Blue Grass Elementary School, he said he is open to volunteering at the café again next summer.
He and his 17-year-old daughter, Ellyn, had begun volunteering about a day a week this summer at Café on Vine. “My daughter and I were doing it together for a father-daughter experience, to give back to the community,” he said during an Aug. 4 telephone interview with The Catholic Messenger.
The day he was assaulted, he was assisting a man in a wheelchair. He had just placed a dessert on the man’s tray and turned to walk away. “That’s the last thing I remember” before being assaulted, he said.
It could have been worse, based on the pummeling he heard that the police officer received. “I think God protected me,” Bebermeyer said.
His injuries required about a dozen stitches in two places on his lip. He said he’s not angry, but shocked and puzzled by what happened. His daughter was angry and upset initially, but has gotten over that, he said. Neither volunteer felt unsafe at Café on Vine.
Msgr. Mottet issued a news release offering the café’s thoughts and prayers for Bebermeyer, Officer Anderson, Mallory’s family and East Moline Detective Jim Weakley, who came to the aid of the officer on the bridge.
“This unfortunate incident reminds us of the difficulty of police work and the need for more and better services for those who suffer from serious mental illness, especially among the poor,” Msgr. Mottet said.
“The board, staff and volunteers of the Café on Vine intend to continue to serve those in need in a safe and harmonious setting. In the last year, we served nearly 50,000 meals. The need continues to increase as we now serve nearly 1,000 more meals per month than we did a year ago.”
A special training on nonviolent crisis intervention for regular staff and volunteers will be held Aug. 22 at the café, Sr. Westmoreland said.
“The nature of our work is serving people on the margins of society … some of them are here because they’ve been thrown out of other places,” she continued. “There are some risks involved. But it doesn’t mean you should stop doing it.”