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RiverCenter Employees Stop Burglary

Robert Morse and Marquese James were not scheduled to do maintenance work Sunday, Dec. 22, at the RiverCenter in Davenport.

But because it snowed the night before, Morse, the center’s maintenance supervisor, and James, a part-time operations employee, were called about 1 p.m. for snow removal.

Morse, 58, said he wanted to get the job done on his day off rather than waiting until Monday.

James, 25, had another motive – he left his cellphone charger at work.

“Not saying that I don’t like helping Robert out, but my phone was dead,” he said.

As far as Morse and James knew, they were the only people in the building.

That was until James heard a “loud banging noise” coming from the basement about 4:30 p.m. He also noticed a door was broken, with glass on the floor.

The two quietly went into the building’s break room where it was pitch black.

“I turned on the lights, and there was this guy at the end of the break room table about 10 to 15 feet away from us,” Morse said.

The police were called about 4:45 p.m.

According to police, Dennis Ray Epps, 55, entered the RiverCenter’s public atrium through the Hotel Blackhawk. From there, he pried open a secured wooden door and attempted to break into an ATM on the first floor of the building. He was not able to unlock the machine, but he pulled off the front of the machine. Epps then broke the glass of a second door to get to the buildings basement.

When Morse and James apprehended him, he was trying to break a third door’s lock with a hammer, according to the police affidavit.

James said that by the time he realized what was happening, Morse had run over to the intruder.

James, standing at 6 feet 5 inches, quickly followed and used his height advantage over the 5-foot-8-inch Epps to put him into a headlock.

“We weren’t scared at all,” Morse said. “Even if he had a weapon, we were just too fast. He wouldn’t have had a chance to even use it.”

Epps has been charged with second-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools. He is being held at the Scott County Jail with arraignment scheduled for Jan. 16.

He has been in and out of jail on a series of burglary-related crimes since 1985, according to court records.

“He did a lot of damage and knew what he was doing,” Davenport Police Maj. Don Schaeffer said. “He was looking for anything he could steal.”

Rick Palmer, executive director of the RiverCenter, said employees are trained to protect themselves and call 911 in emergency situations.

“From our perspective, they’re heroes,” Palmer said. “We would’ve not expected them to react that way.”

Schaeffer said he does not recommend people to intervene like Morse and James did.

“Citizens can do that, but they need to know that they could get hurt,” he said. “You just don’t know who you’re dealing with, and you’re not professionally trained, but when it works out fine, that’s great.”

Story by Jack Cullen, reporter for Quad City Times

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