A volunteer at the Community Interfaith Food Pantry has likely lost sight in an eye after a suspect, possibly angry at being turned away, struck him in the face Thursday morning.
Mike Foppe, the director of the all-volunteer pantry, was in a hospital Thursday and expected to undergo surgery Thursday evening. The suspect was taken into custody by Belleville police.
Foppe suffered broken facial bones, including the bone around his eye.
“The eyeball itself is ruptured — it basically burst. And the lens, which is what allows someone to see, is disrupted. So he has no vision in his left eye at all,” said Tami Johnson, Foppe’s sister-in-law and a registered nurse.
Belleville police said a suspect was in custody Thursday and that they expected to present a case for aggravated battery to the state attorney’s office for charges. The man’s identity was not released.
Belleville police Lt. Col. Matt Eiskant said the suspect struck two volunteers at the food pantry after being turned down for services. Both volunteers were struck in the face with an unknown object, Eiskant said, and both are older than 60, which would possibly enhance the level of charges.
Police, volunteers and family said the suspect had also been turned away from the pantry on Wednesday. Foppe’s family said the man did not have documentation to prove he lived in areas served by the pantry, among other requirements.
Thursdays are “strictly a restock day,” said Dan McKenzie, a volunteer who was at the pantry but did not see the altercation.
“It’s very unusual to have any type of altercation. Most patrons are very thankful to receive the food we provide,” McKenzie said.
The food pantry serves about 500 to 600 families, McKenzie said, with seasonal fluctuation. He said a handful of volunteers were working Thursday.
Johnson said she was told the suspect had been asked to leave Wednesday and came back, angry, on Thursday.
“Mike asked him to leave, he became irate, and (the suspect) struck Mike in the face,” Johnson said.
She said bones in Foppe’s cheek and eye were broken.
“My brother-in-law is a big man,” Johnson said. “He could have easily taken this man down, but he did not ... He has a very high level of commitment to that pantry.”