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Friend or Foe: Superhero Crime Fighter Phoenix Jones


You know what’s an odd feeling?  Looking back to when you were a kid and remembering all the ridiculous and impossible things you wanted to be when you grew up.  You know what’s an even stranger feeling?  Realizing later that maybe some of those seemingly impossible occupations weren’t quite as far-fetched as you originally believed them to be.

Hmmm . . . Maybe I shouldn’t have hung up my leather mech-piloting gloves just yet.

Anywho, for those of you as enthralled by the tale of Phoenix Jones as I am, you’ll know that earlier in the month the would-be Seattle ‘superhero’ was arrested and accused with assaulting a group of party-goers.  And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking, no I haven’t gone insane – but arguably maybe some of these people have.

Phoenix Jones, whose real name is Benjamin Fodor, a 23-year-old mixed-martial arts fighter, made headlines as one of the people responsible for kick-starting the real-life superhero movement.  As the name suggest, these are people who dress up in costumes to fight and prevent crime, doing everything from patrolling the streets and making calls to 911 for police intervention to actually stepping in and, you know, fighting people.

Fodor is the leader of the 10-person Rain City Super Heroes group in Seattle.  He carries a stun gun baton and pepper spray as his main weapons and has been donning his mask since the beginning of this year.  Since that time, Fodor has suffered a multitude of injuries from his excursions.  However, last week was his first arrest.  Fodor claims he was simply breaking up a fight among partiers when he pepper-sprayed a group of people on the street.  But the people state otherwise and say that Fodor attacked them.  However, judging from the looks of the video, it does appear as if Fodor was breaking up a fight in progress.  In any case, Fodor has since been released from custody and prosecutors say they aren’t planning to press any charges, which means Seattle gets to have its self-proclaimed guardian back.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like the idea of real-life superheroes and the fact that these guys are out there trying to be good Samaritans by stopping crime.  And I certainly wouldn’t mind if some of them started popping up in the Bay Area, because I’m sure there probably won’t be any complaints.  But what surprises me most about Fodor’s arrest is how it didn’t happen sooner.  I mean, he’s essentially a masked man in a rubber muscled suit who can and has assaulted people in the name of preventing crime.  If that doesn’t scream criminal charges to you, then I would think that it at least yells civil lawsuit.

Just to review, battery is when someone makes actual and offensive unwanted physical contact with another person.  Assault is when a person puts another in fear of imminent offensive physical contact without actually touching the victim.  Fodor carries around pepper spray and a stun gun baton.  Fodor uses these things along with his body parts to disable people he believes are about to commit a crime and he’s been doing this for at least the past 10 months.  Many of his adventures are video-recorded and released on the internet.  I don’t know how much clearer of a lawsuit you can get from these set of facts without . . . yeah, it can’t be clearer.

And yes, I’m aware that certainly Fodor has a viable defense of others defense based on his observations.  People are allowed to step in and protect others using proportionate force.  But my point is that the odds of Fodor never being arrested before this incident, even with this legal defense, are simply mind-blowing and frankly a little annoying.  I accidentally park a minute too long in front of an expired meter and I get a ticket.  This guy gets to beat up on people and he’s only now having charges filed against him?  Talk about unfair.

Aside from his amazing luck with the law so far, I’ve got no beef with Fodor and others like him.  Having more eyes on the street protecting people is never bad in my book.  But I can also understand why the Seattle police department has started to look less kindly on him.  There’s always a chance that Fodor’s action could inspire others to take more extreme and less law-abiding measures to stem crime.  Even worst, it could inspire super villains to start popping up all over the place and the last thing anyone wants is a Batman and Joker situation.


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