Self-proclaimed crime fighter Phoenix Jones was arrested Sunday for allegedly pepper-spraying four people in downtown Seattle. A spokesman for the activist-in-a-superhero-costume said Jones broke up a fight after seeing two men being assaulted. But Seattle police said there was no fight.
While self-proclaimed crime fighter Phoenix Jones contends he was breaking up a fight, Seattle police arrested the leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement early Sunday after he allegedly doused a group of people with pepper spray.
The costumed Jones, 23, was arrested on suspicion of fourth-degree assault just before 3 a.m., accused of using pepper spray on four people who were treated by medics, according to a Seattle police report.
Jones — whose real name is Benjamin John Francis Fodor — spent a little over seven hours in the King County Jail before posting $3,800 bail Sunday afternoon, according to jail records and Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
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Jones is the leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement, according to one of his Facebook pages, which boasts more than 10,000 “likes.” He claims he is a symbol “that the average person doesn’t have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing.”
A phone call to Jones’ apartment Monday went unanswered. However, a volunteer spokesman for Jones, Los Angeles-based photographer Peter Tangen, said Jones saw two men getting “viciously beaten” by a group of people and broke up the fight. Tangen — who has photographed a number of people, including Jones, involved in “costumed activism” — criticized police for failing to fully investigate the incident.
Tangen said one officer involved in Sunday’s arrest viewed less than a minute of the 14-minute video of the incident.
But Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said the responding officers determined “there was no fight.”
The raw video of Jones’ clash with a group of people on Columbia Street near Alaskan Way was posted on his Facebook page.
Jones, wearing a black and gold costume — with a mask and fake, six-pack abs — can be seen charging toward the group under the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The video begins with a shaky view looking west down Columbia Street, where a group of people can be seen, though it’s unclear what exactly is happening.
“Phoenix, look down, look down. Huge fight,” says a male voice on the video.
“Go, go, go. Get me 911! Call 911!” another male voice says.
Jones can then be seen running into the group and yelling, “Break it up!”
After Jones appears to douse some in the group with pepper spray, a woman uses her shoe to hit one of Jones’ companions, a burly man wearing a mask and a leather jacket.
She then turns her attention to Jones, who dodges her blows, a can of pepper spray clearly visible in his gloved hand.
A silver car is later seen driving on the wrong side of the road and appears to narrowly miss hitting a man.
Jones and his group then run toward a black SUV in a nearby parking lot and a man can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher they had been chased by the SUV.
Near the end of the 14-minute video, a Seattle officer can be heard telling Jones and the men with him, “Anyone else want to join this party? … We’re about to arrest the whole bunch of ya and clean things up. We’re about tired of this game.”
According to the police report, an officer was dispatched to a report of a hit-and-run on a pedestrian at Western Avenue and Columbia Street at 2:38 a.m. Sunday.
A woman told the officer she didn’t see a vehicle strike anyone but that she and some friends had been attacked and pepper-sprayed by a man, according to the report. A description of the man’s attire has been blacked out, though it does refer to him as “the masked suspect.”
The woman told the officer her group had left a nightclub, bound for their cars but stopped in the street “and began dancing and frolicking around with each other” when the man charged at them and doused them with pepper spray, the report says.
The “masked suspect” was detained and told an officer he ran into the crowd to break up a fight, the report says. A second man showed the video footage he’d shot to an officer and the officer notes “there did not appear to be a fight” before the group was sprayed, the report says.
“The victims denied that anyone in their group had been fighting” and they wanted the masked man “arrested for attacking them,” it says.
Two cans of pepper spray were taken from the suspect, identified as Fodor in the police report.
Jones “has had a history of injecting himself in these incidents. Recently there have been increased reports of citizens being pepper-sprayed by” Jones and his group, the report says.
Although officers have advised Jones to call 911, “he continues to try to resolve things on his own,” says the report.
While police rely on citizens’ involvement to solve crime, Jamieson, the Seattle police spokesman, said it’s often unnecessary for them to physically intervene.
“It’s fine if people want to dress up and walk around … but our concern is when they insert themselves into these potentially volatile and unknown situations,” said Jamieson. “If you’re deploying pepper spray on people on the street, you have to have a good reason to do it or you’ll be arrested for assault.”
Approximately three hours before police were called to the incident on Columbia Street, there had been a report that Jones had pepper-sprayed several nightclub patrons during “some type of disturbance.”
The people who were sprayed left before police arrived so a police report wasn’t taken. But officers “arriving on that call noted the odor of pepper spray was still in the air,” the report says.
Last year, a Federal Way man was granted a protection order against Jones in King County Superior Court after Jones allegedly called and drove by the man’s home repeatedly and threatened him and his family, court records show.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed
to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org