How a Detroit Pizza Delivery Boy’s Shooting Led to the Invention of the Kevlar Vest

FBI agents in riot gear.

FBI agents in riot gear.
Photo: Robyn Beck (Getty Images)

Detroit, history and pizza are very near and dear volume, so when i heard this story of a pizzeria owner in detroit inventing the kevlar vest after he got shot while on delivery, I couldn’t believe this hadn’t fallen under my radar before. It tickles me so much that I had to bring it to you, dear reader.

In 1969, former U.S. Marine Richard Davis delivered two large pepperoni and ham pizzas to his 7 Mile shop in Detroit. He had an idea it was ordered by the same guys who stole his fiancée a few weeks before, because they had placed the same pizza order.

Now, a normal person just wouldn’t deliver the pizzas. It’s not like they paid for them through an app or anything. But that’s the principle of the thing. You don’t just rob a small business owner’s fiancée and then have the stupid idea to repeat the exact same crime. Someone has to take a stand.

And that’s what Davis did; instead of ignoring the order, he delivered the pizzas to the crooks, plus several hot pellets from his .22 revolver. From Washington Post:

The streetwise Davis braced for an assault, but his body was unprepared for the two bullets that pinned him seconds later, one looking at his head just below the frame of his glasses and the other sinking into the back of his leg.

Rather than fall to the ground, Davis managed to injure two of his three forwards. “Thank goodness for the ‘Saturday Night Special,'” he said, referring to the small, inexpensive handgun used by his attackers. “I got hit twice, but got four hits, so I won the game on runs, I guess.”

When his pizzeria burned down weeks later, he found himself jobless, recovering from gunshot wounds and almost penniless.

Yeah… it will happen when you try to apply your own brand of righteousness. Broken down and out of work, Davis got his hands on a roll of ballistic nylon recently developed by Michigan-based DuPont Co. Labs. He made an ultra-lightweight bulletproof material and completed several tests. He aroused no interest from law enforcement, yet. He realized he needed a gadget. Enough to prove that it worked spectacularly. From the post office :

So Davis arranged in 1972 to film his first live product demonstration with an 8mm camera near the small town of Walled Lake, Michigan.

“I told the cops there I was going to do this in the middle of a field somewhere – just to prove it works – with no ambulance nearby,” Davis said.

Wearing one of his own creations, he knelt in the grass and turned a gun to his chest, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger with his thumb. “I did, and it worked.”

He even filmed it for his own promotional material. Please note that this video features footage of Davis shooting himself. and might bother some readers:

Davis’ Kevlar vests have become a huge hit, and similar designs are still worn by law enforcement around the world. However, Second Chance as a company does not survive to this day. It was wound up in 2004 amid a scandal involving false claims about faulty Zylon body armor sold to federal and state agencies. In 2018, Davis settled with the federal government for just over $1.5 million.

Despite the company’s decline, Second Chance vests have claimed to have saved over 800 “documented” lives since the vest’s invention in the early 2000s. It may have saved more. What makes you wonder: WWhat else can pizza do?


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