Monday, March 28, 2016

Central Lake's Armor Express rising from the ashes Manufacturer builds on failure to acquire new success

TRAVERSE CITY — The analogy of a phoenix rising from its ashes is one that Matt Davis knows all too well. The ancient metaphor closely shadows the story of his own company.
Some know Matt Davis as the owner of Armor Express, a Central Lake-based body armor manufacturing company. Many also know him as the son of Richard Davis, who founded Second Chance Body Armor in 1970. The company infamously filed for bankruptcy in 2004 after recalling more than 120,000 bulletproof vests. Matt Davis started Armor Express to redeem its name.

Rise and fall of Second Chance vest Part 1

This story personally touched my life. I was employed by Second Chance Body Armor when the employees were sent home and SCBA was allowed to violate the Federal W.A.R.N. Act. We were not given 90 days pay or 90 days notice. 
Davis walks around Central Lake like he is some kind of small town hero, when in reality he destroyed countless lives.
The Detroit Free Press has amnesia regarding the two part series and I was able to find Part 1 on another forum. I will post Part 2 if and when I can locate them.

This Michigan man shot himself repeatedly to sell his soft body armor to police. But the vests proved flawed and two cops went down. Now the $50-million-a-year empire is in ruins. And his success story has some holes.

November 21, 2005

Email this Print this BY JOE SWICKARD and DAVID ZEMAN


Richard Davis, founder of Second Chance Body Armor, would shoot himself to prove the vest's effectiveness. In this April 30, 1997, demonstration in Central Lake, he used a .44 Magnum with a 6-inch barrel. The hole in the shirt after Davis shot himself. Police were sold. "That demonstration reaped millions for him," said David Balash, a former police firearms expert. (1997 photo by LIZ RAFFAELE/Special to Free Press)

First of two parts

Inspiration came to Richard Davis, so the story goes, as doctors plucked a bullet from his temple and another from his buttocks.

Not quite the apple that bonked Isaac Newton. But those small slugs gave Davis, a struggling Detroit pizzeria owner who said he was wounded in a shootout with robbers, his Big Idea: soft body armor that cops could wear as easily as an undershirt.

From that 1969 gun battle, his official history continues, Davis parlayed a $70 roll of nylon and the straps from his car's seat belts into a $50-million-a-year business providing thousands of American cops, soldiers -- even President George W. Bush -- with light, bullet-resistant vests.

But now the high-flying college flunkout finds himself in bankruptcy, along with Second Chance Body Armor, the northern Michigan business he founded. The shooting of two police officers and the lawsuits that followed revealed that Second Chance kept selling vests despite mounting evidence of deadly flaws. The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation.

And many cops who used and trusted Davis' vests feel betrayed.

"Being responsible for 28 guys on the team, it really hit me," said Lt. Tim Atkins of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office tactical unit. "If they had prior knowledge of the problems and didn't do anything, boy, you really hate to think that."

A Free Press investigation reveals a history of troubling incidents involving Davis, from the torching of his pizza stores in 1970 to his detention at Heathrow Airport in 1977 to a scheme to obstruct a police investigation in 1990.

The newspaper probe also raises questions about the episode that gave rise to Davis' fortune -- that gun battle on a warm summer night in Detroit.

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