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Vigilantes, lunatics or just guys in masks fighting crime and getting stabbed?
That's the story out of Seattle these days. A group dubbing themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement is donning costumes, taking to the streets and fighting crime, just like the real superheroes; but maybe with a bit less enthusiasm from police.
Police are well aware of the Rain City vigilantes. One of their leaders came to police headquarters for an interview and to explain what the group was all about, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The group includes the following "superheroes:" Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Penelope and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle.
Phoenix is the one who decided to have a sit down with Seattle police. They discussed an incident in which Phoenix might have been wounded in an altercation with an evil-doer.
Police were called to the scene of four heroes confronting a man making threats and swinging a golf club. Sadly, no charges were pressed because none of the superheroes wanted to reveal their identities to police, reports the Post Intelligencer.
And this is one way the gang can be of actual use to police, is to witness and report crimes. "There's nothing wrong with citizens getting involved with the criminal justice process -- as long as they follow it all the way through," department spokesman Jeff Kappel told the Post-Intelligencer, adding they want people to call 911 and be good witnesses, even if a case goes to court.
That means you might have to come out of the bat cave, or at least out of costume, to do that.
The downside to being a Seattle superhero, or a caped crusader in any other town, is not just the risk of getting injured by bad guys, but the risk of being mistakenly shot by police who could confuse a caped and masked crusader for a burglar. For instance, the Post-Intelligencer quotes one citizen who saw the masked group pulling up to a gas station and thought they were there to rob it.
Finally, initiating physical contact even with bad guys can land a hero in court for assault, battery or other criminal and civil charges if they mistake a criminal's intention, identity, or if they use unreasonable force. As police will tell you, crime-fighting is a minefield of legal liability which can easily cut short the career of any superhero, especially the untrained.
So help out if you wish, or better yet, live by the values of a superhero. But just be careful whom and how you choose to fight in the name of truth, justice and the American Way. As the superhero website puts it, "You can inspire people to believe in a symbol. You can inspire people to believe they can CREATE themselves a symbol and embody it --- and it's not a lie."