KIRO Eyewitness News reports that a Lynnwood man, identified only as "Dan," came "within seconds of having his car broken into" on Sunday when the alleged crook was chased off by a masked crusader. In an incident that local police couldn't confirm to TPM, Dan told KIRO a man with a metal strip was trying to unlock his car in a parking lot when help showed up out of nowhere.
"From the right, this guy comes dashing in, wearing this skin-tight rubber, black and gold suit, and starts chasing him away," Dan said.
Dan's rescuer was Phoenix Jones, a.k.a. Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle, a "Real Life Superhero" and leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement. Almost every night, the 22-year-old Jones, who keeps his real identity a secret, enters a secret compartment in the back of a Lynnwood comic book store and emerges, in uniform, to patrol the streets. (Watch a video of Jones in action below.) His suit includes a bullet-proof vest and "stab plates," and he carries a taser nightstick, mace and tear gas. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Jones also sports a "ballistic cup."
"I symbolize that the average person doesn't have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing," Jones said. He told KIRO that since he began his patrols nine months ago, he has been stabbed and had guns drawn on him.
Jones isn't alone in his crime-fighting enthusiasm. There's an entire movement of Real Life Superheroes out there, across the country. Activities appear to range from handing homeless people water bottles to actually stepping in and trying to stop violent crime. The website rlsh-manual.com defines a Real Life Superhero as "whoever chooses to embody the values presented in superheroic comic books, not only by donning a mask/costume, but also performing good deeds for the communitarian place whom he inhabits." Reallifesuperheroes.org urges visitors to "Let out your inner superhero and join or support our cause."
But not everyone is ready to credit Jones with thwarting a Real Life Evildoer. When TPM contacted the Lynnwood Police Department, Public Information Officer Shannon Sessions said the department was aware of the "superheroes," but could not confirm the incident this week.
"I know there was a story on it--but I can't confirm that it's true and that it actually happened," Sessions said in an email. She even suggested that KIRO may have been "punked."
A commenter on The Real Life Superhero Forum suggested the Lynnwood incident was staged.
"Staged... bunk," wrote a member named Artisteroi in response to the Forum founder's posting of the KIRO story. "[A]nd does anyone notice that his suit keeps getting more and more elaborate? Someone is funding this guy. That suit was made in Hollywood basement."
Back in November, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the Seattle police had made contact with the Rain City Superhero Movement. A source gave the Post-Intelligencer the names of the eight other members of the Movement: Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88 and Penelope.
Police say the "costume-wearing complainants" are lucky they haven't been hurt.
In one instance, police say a caped crusader dressed in black was nearly shot when he came running out of a dark park. In another case, a witness on Capitol Hill saw the crusaders wearing ski masks in a car parked at a Shell station and thought they were going to rob the place.
Seattle Police spokesman Jeff Kappel told the paper "[t]here's nothing wrong with citizens getting involved with the criminal justice process -- as long as they follow it all the way through." But the article describes an incident on November 4 where police responded to a scene where Jones and other apparent Movement members were in a stand-off with a man making threatening statements and swinging a golf club. The "costume-wearing complainants" declined to press charges, to prevent revealing their secret identities. As a result, The Club Swinger walked.
TPM also found an interview Jones did in November with a blogger named Tea Krulos. In it, Jones describes his background in martial arts, and says the other members of the Rain City Superhero Movement "all have either military backgrounds or MMA training."
"Phoenix Jones...people believe Phoenix Jones may help them," Phoenix Jones told Krulos. "I mean they know they can't count on it 100 percent, because it's so random, but they know it is possible."
Late Update: Here's the KIRO video of Jones: