Man dons costume to fight crime

Originally posted:
By day, he’s a mild-mannered college student studying chemistry. But at night, he becomes the Viper, a superhero looking to stamp out crime in Columbia.
Christian Tyler Hardee, 20, caught the attention of Columbia police officers when they spotted him wearing a mask and green-and-black tights about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday near the Bicycle Shop on the Square.
But the aspiring superhero assured police he was working for good not evil. He told officers he was on the prowl in search of crime to report.
Hardee, a self-professed comic book nerd, said he knows he’s just a regular college student without super-human powers, and his behavior might be viewed as strange by some. But for Hardee, dressing as a superhero is a way to inspire the community to stand against wrongdoing and perform acts of charity.
“I am just a guy trying to do what is right, in tights,” he said.
During his patrol of Columbia, he donned under armor, carried two plastic sticks and wore a utility belt. On the belt, he stowed a screw driver, wrenches and a cell phone to quickly call police if he stumbled across crime. Officers also found ninja throwing stars inside his car parked near the Bicycle Shop, according to a police report.
Columbia Police Lt. Michelle Jones said the department does not need the assistance of a superhero to keep the city’s streets safe. She discouraged the public from patrolling the streets while dressed in costumes.
“We always encourage the public to be good witnesses but not actively get out and look for crime,” she said.
Police determined Hardee was not breaking any laws, other than a city ordinance that prohibits wearing a mask that obscures the face in public. He was advised of the ordinance and was not cited.
Jones said detectives interviewed Hardee and encouraged him to stop his patrols. Investigators are worried he could frighten the public or hurt himself or others.
Hardee said he will continue to look for crime but without the full costume. To date, he has not stumbled upon criminal activity.
The 20-year-old studies chemistry and art at Union University in Jackson. He hopes to land a job with his chemistry degree, make some money and then embark upon a career as a comic-book artist once he is financially secure.
“I am not out of touch with reality. … I am just a normal guy,” he said. “I know what happens in the movies doesn’t happen in real life.”
He also wants everyone to know he is not trying to inspire children to follow in his footsteps, and he did not don the costume in search of publicity.
“If I wanted attention, I would go streaking or something,” Hardee said.