Seattle 'superhero' crime-fighter arrested on assault charges [Updated]
Benjamin Fodor, the "superhero" crime-fighter who's become an international celebrity for his masked patrols of Seattle's mean streets, didn't fare so well over the weekend. He was arrested for pepper-spraying a group of patrons leaving a downtown club.
The men and women were walking to their car early Sunday, "dancing and having a good time," when Fodor came up behind them wielding the pepper spray, a Seattle police report says.
Two men in the group chased Fodor down the street until police came and separated the group. Fodor, who has used the name "Phoenix Jones" in his publicity forays to avoid reprisals, was arrested on four counts of assault and hauled off to jail.
Updated: 2:25 p.m. Fodor on his "Phoenix Jones" Facebook page insists he was trying to break up a fight. A video he posted showed him rushing off toward a group of people, pepper spray can at the ready, and announcing he was going to stop the fight. His arrival touched off a brawl in which Fodor appeared to occasionally get the worst of, although he can be seen liberally squirting pepper spray at some of those assembled noisily in the street.
"Here is the fight that the police described as dancing from the few people they interviewed," he wrote.
But Seattle Police Det. Mark Jamieson told The Times there was no fight. Fodor had rushed toward a group of rowdy, but not initially combative, people. It was the third incident of the night in which people leaving bars had complained of being pepper sprayed, he said.
"In talking to the victims, they said no, we're all friends here. We were all out having a good time. We were not fighting at all," Jamieson said. "Based on all of that, all the victim and witness testimony, there was probable cause to arrest this individual for assault."
Fodor, under his Jones pseudonym, has appeared in international news accounts and network television as the most famous of the Seattle brand of superhero street patrols that have sprung up in cities across the U.S.
"Jones" was even spoofed on "Saturday Night Live" when he broke his nose earlier this year.
By day, Fodor is a 23-year-old Mixed Martial Arts fighter, says the Seattle Weekly, which decided to publish his true identity Monday after the Smoking Gun initially outed him.
By night, he has developed another kind of following. One local man told KIRO TV in January that Jones suddenly showed up when a man was trying to break into his car in a parking lot. "From the right, this guy comes dashing in, wearing this skin-tight rubber, black and gold suit, and starts chasing him away," recounted the man, identified only as Dan.
"My name is Phoenix Jones," the man announced.
In September, Fodor claimed to have foiled the attempted carjacking of a party bus, spraying a man who was struggling with the bus driver with pepper spray and sending him running, according to PubliCola.
"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 told ABC News in an interview. "Criminals feel free to just run wild in my city, and I'm not going to stand for it."
The city has responded, some of the time, with gratitude. "Seattle needs you, Phoenix Jones. Don't give up!" someone wrote in on the Rain City Superheroes' Facebook page.
The police have been less than worshipful. Even before the latest pepper spray melee, police distributed a memo warning patrols to be watchful for the masked men.
When Fodor got his nose broken while trying to break up a fight in January (one of the parties pulled a gun, which apparently trumped the headlock Fodor had his friend in, resulting in the friend applying the toe of his boot to Fodor's face), the police didn't appear all that sympathetic.
"Does Superman get his [expletive] kicked?" a Seattle detective asked Seattlepi.com. "These people should not be called superheroes."
"You know, if somebody wants to dress up in costume and walk around Seattle in the middle of the night, they can do that. There's nothing illegal about that," Jamieson said in an interview. "Where we have an issue is when you insert yourself into these potentially volatile or unknown situations. Bad things can happen."
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle