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ROCK ISLAND -- They use mental landmarks to remember where Samuel D. Davis died on April 29, 2015, in Rock Island.

His mother, Donna Evans, of Coal Valley, knows the area by spotting the dead tree across the slough between the Rock Island Arsenal peninsula and Rock Island. His brother, Tom, of Moline, uses the mangled fence along the bike path where firefighters used a winch to hoist a pallet bearing his brother from the waters below.

Samuel Davis' body was spotted in the Mississippi River near Schwiebert Riverfront Park about 11:30 a.m. that day by a pedestrian. His bike was nearby.

For his family, the case has brought frustration, not knowing if foul play was involved. Rock Island Police Deputy Chief Jason Foy last week said the case remains open.

Ms. Evans said it was determined her son -- the youngest of her four boys -- had been in the water for less than 12 hours. Now the family is trying to organize the "SAM (Secure along the Mississippi) Camera Project" to place a security camera near where he drowned.

Last week, she talked with the Rock Island City Council about the possibility of such a camera. She and her family have offered to raise money for one camera, hoping it will generate enough interest to prompt funding for more cameras along the Quad-Cities' riverfronts as a safety measure.

Such a camera, they say, may have provided answers to Samuel Davis' death.

"The police department did attempt to use footage from various businesses nearby, including the buses," Ms. Evans said. "However, none of them focused on the riverfront.

"So that left them with no other evidence to point specifically at anyone," she said. "And no witnesses left them unable to determine what happened in my son's situation."

Brother visits scene often

Tom Davis pointed to the steep rocks below the bike path leading to the water. He said his brother had contusions on his head, an abrasion on his nose and his eyes were blackened.

"He looked like he got walloped pretty good," Tom Davis said. 

He shared that, since his brother's death, he's visited the spot often. He said homeless people congregate to the east, under the Arsenal viaduct, and he's talked to some of them seeking answers in his brother's death.

"The word on the street is he was going to hang out with a buddy he just met who was a fisherman," Tom Davis said. "When I actually came here the first day, there was a log laid up on the rocks. It would have been perfect for a spot to fish."

He points to water splashing off the rocks below. "That's where he was found," Tom Davis said.

"The theory is -- in my head, anyway, along with some of the Rock Island detectives -- that basically they have DNA of a guy in the area," he said. "But they can't pin anything unless he confesses. And you can literally get away with murder in this country if you don't open your mouth -- unless somebody sees you. Or has you on video."

The cost of cameras

Ms. Evans has worked with Tri-City Electric in Davenport to get an estimate  for what her project would cost. Her proposal includes working with the Quad Cities Missing Person Network and others to do fundraising for the project.

She told Rock Island council members the project could be complementary to "all the great changes along the riverfront in recent years."

Ms. Evans has sought input from other police departments, including Burlington, Clinton and Muscatine's, as well as local Crime Stoppers officials. The overall opinion, she said, is cameras definitely could help deter and even solve crime. But she noted none of the departments she spoke with use the cameras because of costs.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley last week said the city manager and city attorney are checking out her proposal. Once they complete their due diligence, Mayor Pauley said, there will be a study session and Ms. Evans will be invited to address city officials again.

Memories of someone special

Samuel Davis was a waiter at the Blue Cat Brew Pub in Rock Island. Ms. Evans said more than 500 people attended his visitation.

"Two of the last people who stood in line that night waiting to shake our hand and share their condolences were the tellers at the bank where he cashed his check every Friday," Ms. Evans said. "They looked forward to him coming in and entertaining them a bit.

"Another person was a bus driver, to share his condolences," she said. "He was on the last bus at night Sam would often take home from work. He enjoyed talking to Sam and sharing a laugh with him."

Ald. Joshua Schipp, 6th Ward, recalled one afternoon when Mr. Davis stopped by his yard.

"We had a wonderful conversation," Ald. Schipp said. "At the end of it, he said, 'You work so hard in your garden with all the beautiful things to look at. I have a bench, and I'd like to give it to you.'"

Ald. Schipp said he still has that bench.

Another memento sets outside the Quad City Botanical Center at 2525 4th Ave., Rock Island. The center allowed Ms. Evans to place a granite stone in her son's memory near some blue spruce trees.

On it are words her son wrote before his death, something she said she can see him saying as if he were still alive: "I hope all of your troubles blow away with the breeze, and that the sun melts your future problems before they happen."


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