Vigilante Justice: Real Life Superheroes Fight Crime
Armed with a skintight black-and-gold, belted costume, a cape and a fedora, Phoenix Jones suits up at night to fight crime on the streets of Seattle. He’s the leader of a real-life superhero movement.
“I’m definitely not going to let my fellow citizens be assaulted and not do anything,” Jones said.
Jones leads the Rain City Superheroes, a group of 10 fighters who perform their own form of vigilante justice on the streets of Seattle.
“It’s a pretty simple message. Citizens need to be more accountable. Calling 911 is a great start, but it’s not the end all to end all,” Jones said. “Criminals feel free to just run wild in my city, and I’m not going to stand for it.”
Superman can fly, Batman has his gadgets and Spiderman has his webs and supersharp senses. But Phoenix Jones, Red Dragon and Buster Doe have just their snazzy costumes and endless enthusiasm as they patrol Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
Red Dragon sports a red robe and a wooden sword. Buster Doe covers his face with a white scarf.
Jones said he developed his costume, along with his alter ego’s name, when his crime-fighting ways made him too recognizable.
“When I started breaking apart fights, I had no outfit or moniker or symbol, and people started recognizing me in my everyday life. It got kind of dangerous and very uncomfortable,” he said. “This suit is what people recognize, and when I take the suit off, I’m able to live as close to a normal life as possible until I put it back on and am ready to defend the people of Seattle.”
While Jones might not have Batman’s Alfred Pennyworth to help him build cool new gadgets, he has adapted his car and costume to protect him.
He wears a bulletproof vest and carries not just a Taser but a net gun and a grappling hook.
His car has a computer in it that prints any e-mails sent to his superhero e-mail address.
On the night ABC News went on patrol with Jones, the caped crusader zapped a warning shot with his Taser during a very tense run in with a man he said was about to drive drunk.
“Just back up! Stay back, stay away. I don’t want to have to Tase you,” Jones yelled.
Red Dragon and Buster Joe called the police.
“I know what you guys are doing … fine … but if somebody’s drunk, all of a sudden having somebody in their face with masks on …” a Seattle police officer warned Jones.
Police are perplexed, worried the group will turn into vigilantes and doubt that the superhero posse has ever stopped any crime.
“Our concern is if it goes badly, then we end up getting called anyway, and we may have additional victims,” Detective Mark Jamieson said.
Jones said that he calls police ahead of time to tell them where he’ll be patrolling. He said that his costume is crucial in helping police recognize him, and it makes an impact on would-be criminals.
“If you fight crime without the outfit, the police don’t know who to look for. They don’t know who’s bad and who’s good. …This is a very noticeable outfit. … It tells people and drug dealers and criminals … that when you see this outfit and this group of people, we stand for a message. … We’re against the crimes that you’re trying to do,” Jones said.
Seattle police said that it is not illegal to dress up as a superhero, but they worry about excess calls to 911 when residents confuse Jones and the other real-life superheroes with criminals. Police said that acting as a superhero can be dangerous, but Red Dragon said that the people they confront rarely turn against them.
“If you approach somebody with the right attitude, they’re not going to really escalate things. For the most part, they’ll just leave you alone,” he said.
Jones’ quest to help his fellow residents is a weirdly close imitation of the movie “Kick Ass,” whose characters dress up as superheroes and take on crime fighting.
Jones said he has a real nine-to-five job, a wife and two kids.
He told ABC affiliate KOMO that an incident with his son inspired him to put on his cape.
One night someone broke into Jones’ car, and the broken glass injured his son and resulted in a trip to the emergency room. When people told Jones that several people witnessed the break-in but did nothing, he was dumbfounded.
“Teenagers are running down the street, breaking into cars, and no one does anything? Where’s the personal accountability?” Jones told KOMO.
Jones emphasizes that his real mission is to help people — he also hands out food to the homeless. On the night ABC News followed the men, they distributed food from Taco Bell to homeless people sitting on the sidewalks.
While police might be skeptical, Jones and his gang of wannabe heroes don’t plan to give up.
“I have two kids,” he said. “I always tell them the same thing every time before I go on patrol: ‘This is the only thing daddy could think of to make the world better for you guys, and I’ll see you when I get home.'”
ABC Affiliate KOMO contributed to this story.