Decision in Phoenix Jones 'superhero' case expected by Thursday
Originally posted: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/HOLD-UNTIL-CONFIRMED-Superhero-Phoenix-Jones-2213166.php
By CASEY MCNERTHNEY AND SCOTT SUNDE, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
In the streets of Belltown, he is Phoenix Jones Guardian of Seattle.
But this self-proclaimed superhero, who may be charged this week for a pepper-spray incident over the weekend, goes by another name: Benjamin Fodor. Or, if you’re a fan of mixed-martial arts fighting, you know him as “Flatttop.”
Fodor, who patrols downtown in a costume and with sidekicks, was arrested early Sunday for investigation of assault, and the City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case.
Police say Fodor, 23, used pepper spray on a group of men and women early Sunday near the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Video of the incident shows two women chasing after Fodor and a man with face paint, hitting them and telling the self-proclaimed superheroes to leave.
In his other life, Fodor competes in the local world of mixed-martial arts fighting and has won a local championship. According to mixedmartialarts.com, Fodor’s won his first official amateur fight in December 2006 and had his last win in July 2010. His record is 11-0, and his last fight ended in a two-round TKO.
A Seattle Twitter account, @FlattopFodor, describes him as the current two-time Ax Lightweight Champion and current welterweight champion in Washington. The last tweet from the account was Aug. 5, 2010.
As Phoenix Jones, Fodor “has a history of injecting himself in these incidents,” Officer Hosea Crumpton wrote in the Sunday incident report. “Recently there have been reports of citizens being pepper-sprayed by (him) and his group. Although (the man) has been advised to observe and report incidents to 911, he continues to try and resolve things on his own.
“There was a report earlier in the night in which several nightclub patrons had been reportedly been pepper-sprayed by (him) during some type of disturbance. Those people left the area before they could be contacted by police. Officers arriving on that call noted the odor of pepper spray was still in the air.”
Last November, Seattle police officers were alerted to Fodor as Phoenix Jones and other self-described superheroes after similar police were confused by their presence at crime scenes.
Officers had learned the identity of Jones before the bulletin was distributed. The “superheroes’ ” story – often compared to the movie “Kick Ass” – exploded in popularity after seattlepi.com first reported on an internal police bulletin, which said the characters drove a Kia registered to one superhero’s godmother.
Seattlepi.com did not initially name Fodor because he wasn’t the subject of a criminal investigation.
His story went viral last fall with publications across the globe weighing in.
Fodor as Phoenix Jones and others drew crowds for their patrols in Belltown earlier this year. At a Belltown community meeting late this summer, they distributed free canisters of pepper spray for self defense.
But patrol officers have long said these superheroes are putting themselves in danger by confronting people.
Seattle firefighters were called to treat those affected by pepper spray Sunday morning. Fodor, who calls himself Phoenix Jones in interviews, has said he is the victim.
A spokesman for Phoenix Jones, Peter Tangen, said it appears the officer who arrested Jones had an agenda, and that when Jones said he was assaulted the officer laughed at him. He also said police have refused to take statements two people who were following Jones.
“I think the biggest story here is that the SPD didn’t really follow protocol in any way, shape or form,” he told KOMO/4. Speaking as Jones, he told the station that police did not take statements from companions who were on the scene.
However, the incident report shows police spoke to two people who were with Fodor at the scene. Both said they were there to document his activities. At least one cameraman typically follows Fodor, who wore a black-and-gold-colored suit.
Police have since confiscated his costume.
“That video began in the area of 1 Av/Columbia St looking to the west,” the report from Officer Hosea Crumpton states. “On the video a group of people could be seen on Columbia St looking to the west. The group was gathered, but there did not appear to be a fight. A/Fodor could be seen running into the group and engaging the subjects. A/Fodor could be seen pepper spraying several individuals in the group. People in the group then turned on A/Fodor and chased him away.”
The cameraman who took that video, Ryan McNamee, initially told seattlepi.com in an e-mail that “police have not contacted me for a statement and has not shown any interest in my footage or what the other journalist and I saw.”
Asked about the police report in which police describe the video, McNamee said that “police glanced at my camera for a couple of seconds but didn’t examine the footage or ask to see it in any detail.”
However, the police report describes about a minute of the video based on the time-stamp on the footage, which McNamee posted online.
In previous interviews with seattlepi.com, the man known as Phoenix Jones has said that is his name and not discussed his background other than saying the people in his group have military training or a martial arts background.
The spokesman for Jones, Peter Tangen, did not discuss Phoenix Jones’ legal name and said the man has “absolutely has no comment” on his name.
“There’s nothing delusional” Tangen said when asked of Fodor. “He’s just a civic activist trying to make the streets a safer place.”
Tangen said the man known as Phoenix Jones has to be vigilant about his safety and the safety of his family, including a young child. But he was not aware with specific threats against him.
The spokesman said Phoenix Jones was unlikely to talk to news outlets that published his name. Tangen said the he didn’t know if Fodor had applied to be a police officer, but said he did not have a military background.
Fodor, speaking as Jones, told KOMO/4 there’s video evidence of his being assaulted, but an officer didn’t want to see the evidence.
“Pepper spray is a defensive weapon, and if you watch the video, I’m being attacked,” he said. “And I only deploy the pepper spray when I’m being attacked.
“At no point did I hit anyone. At no point do I pepper-spray anyone who’s not attacking me. I’m very confident in the video.”
Police say they’re confident in their report. They also say people should not interject themselves into scenes that should be handled by professionals.
When the man known as Phoenix Jones spoke to seattlepi.com for the Nov. 2010 story that started the media whirlwind, he said he didn’t condone people walking around on the street with masks.
“Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background,” he said, “and we’re well aware of what its costs to do what we do.”