Updated at 1:20 a.m. EST Thursday
Officials in Seattle have decided not to press charges against self-proclaimed superhero Phoenix Jones, accused of assault after pepper-spraying a group he said was fighting outside a nightclub. The city attorney, however, called his actions "misguided."
Jones said late Wednesday in a Facebook posting that he was not surprised there would be no charges, as he claimed he committed no crime, but he took umbrage with the Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes' statement.
Jones, whose real name is Ben Fodor, wears a black mask with yellow stripes and a bulging muscle bodysuit. The city patroller, age 23, was arrested Oct. 9 on four counts of assault. He spent about 7 hours in jail before posting $3,800 bail, but subsequently lost his day job teaching autistic kids.
Holmes said that his office can't locate two of the people who were pepper sprayed, so it would be difficult to convince a jury that Fodor intentionally sprayed everyone at the scene.
Holmes says the case was complicated by Fodor's explanation, because state law lets a person use force when he or she reasonably believes someone is about to be injured.
"However," Holmes emphasized in a statement issued by his office, "Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual. He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed."
"Looking ahead," Holmes continued, "I ask our Legislature to prohibit individuals from carrying the large quantity of pepper spray employed by Mr. Fodor—far more than can be justified solely for self-defense purposes. Finally, I urge Mr. Fodor to consult legal counsel regarding his own potential personal civil liability if he persists with his vigilante alter ego. Our state’s Good Samaritan statutes are designed to protect individuals who happen upon — rather than actively seek out — opportunities to render assistance to others, without expectation of compensation. These laws are not designed to protect a branded, costumed character, his roving video crew, or their copyrighted videos from the reach of tort plaintiffs."
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz added, "Our position has been very consistent and clear on this. Too often situations are made worse when someone inserts themselves into a volatile situation unnecessarily. Call 911, be a good witness, and let the officers handle the situation."
Jones responded: "Would a 'guided' person just keep walking and allow someone to be kicked repeatedly in the head?"
He also took on Holmes' urging of pepper spray legislation.
"Pepper spray is defined as a self defense tool and is very hard to use offensively, however we have seen a lot of that on the news here in Seattle," Jones said, apparently referring to the eviction of Occupy Seattle protesters, including an elderly woman who was pepper-sprayed by police. "I hope somewhere in that law there is more protection for the elderly, and peaceful protesters."
He also denied he was a vigilante and agreed crime witnesses should call 911.
"I think my arrest and de-masking was more of an attempt to get me to stop patrolling than to actively seek justice," Jones said. "I want everyone to know that I have no intention of stopping."
Earlier article looking at superheroes: 'Costumed crusaders taking it to the streets'