Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Part 2- The Phoenix Jones Interview
What follows is a transcription of my interview with Phoenix Jones, conducted November 23, 2010. It has been edited for clarity, but not content and appears in it's entirety. I am presenting it here without editorial comment- you can make of it what you will.
TEA KRULOS: Why don’t we start by you telling me about yourself and how you got started with all of this, when and why this all began for you.
PHOENIX JONES: Well, I’ve read comics and watched movies and have had an interest in this since the beginning of time. I wanted to name my son after a Dragon Ball Z character (laughs) -I’ve always been into martial arts and training my entire life, so I’ve always thought you ascend to a certain level when you become stronger than the average person.
It was one of those evolutions for me because after I got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I kind of felt let down, because in a weird way Tae Kwon Do is sort of a lie. It doesn’t actually work in practical fighting situations. It’s like who can dance better, but it has nothing to do with real life, so I felt like I wasted a lot of time, you know? From there I went to collegiate wrestling, and I became a state collegiate wrestling champion, and I thought this is where it’s at, right? Then I saw a boxing match, and I thought, yeah, I can’t do that though, those guys would kill me, that sucks. Again I felt let down, like I wasted my time again. From there I moved to sport jiu jitsu, which has a little bit of punching, but is still mostly down on the ground, again I felt let down.
It wasn’t until I moved to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)that I felt I had moved to the real thing, it’s stand up, it’s grappling, it’s wrestling, it’s kicking, anywhere the fight goes, in any situation mixed martial arts has an answer for it.
After that I thought, well what do you do when you have the powers? Because I always wanted to have these powers and now I feel I am trained, I’m trained to know more about combat than the average person. I always wanted to be a superhero so I went and made a supersuit. I started working on it, but left the idea alone because I was working a job. But when I saw fights on the street I broke them up and stuff. I actually broke up so many fights without a mask on that people knew who I was, they’d be like ‘there’s the guy always breaking up fights.’
I was at a water park in my home town and someone broke into my car, and the glass was on the ground. My son fell into it and cut his knee. I was telling people to call 911 and everyone just stood there and stared. And even- one guy started recording it for like YouTube or something. I was like what is this? Why does the world suck? It’s because they are afraid. They’re afraid to call 911 if you’re troubled or if someone is breaking into your car- there are teenagers walking down the street breaking into cars and no one is doing anything, it’s ridiculous.
So my son got stitched up and I still have the glass in a jar in my house as a reminder that bad things happen. There was enough glass you could take it out and put it in a jar.
The following week I was at a bar. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do any kind of drugs- I did one time in 8th grade, anyhow, I was at a bar because my friend was there and we went outside and there was a commotion and someone tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘your friend got beat up,’ and he had irreversible face damage. And I said ‘who did it, show me who it was that did it.’ There was like seventy people outside and no one did anything and everyone knew exactly who beat him up. And I just kept thinking- why didn’t anyone do anything?
The next day I was out on patrol looking for that guy, I didn’t find him and that’s actually really good, because I probably would have done something extreme in the process. And in case there was a crowd or something, and I started beating up this person, I didn’t want anyone to know who I was and that’s how it started with the ski mask and everything. But I’m glad I didn’t- it wouldn’t have been heroic.
TEA KRULOS: So then you developed your own group- how did that come about?
PHOENIX JONES: That came about before I heard about real life superheroes. I was on a patrol by myself and I walked into a fight between two people outside a bar, there were 11 or 12 people. I felt I couldn’t really get in there to help, I was nervous and apprehensive because there was 1 of me and 12 of them. I didn’t have any weapons- I just had my MMA gloves on, a pair of spandex shorts I use for fighting, a spandex shirt, and a robbery ski mask (laughs)- it didn’t look like I was a hero by any stretch of the imagination, it looked like I was robbing someone and had stumbled into the fight in the process.
So I talked to a friend and he said- ‘dude, that’s you? I heard about that guy. I totally want in.’ And I said ‘Ok, I don’t want to be out there alone so next time come with me.’ He told a riend, and I told another friend, and before you knew it, there was nine of us, and we all have either military backgrounds or MMA training so we came up with a procedure how to stop a conflict.
How we do it is- we got one guy not in uniform across the street with a camera that can also act as a witness for the police. One guy will approach the situation- which is normally me- we got another guy yell that we are real life superheroes and we’re coming to break up the argument, and announce our presence. The other two people stay back, so I’m in front and they’re a little bit in back and then I try to get between the fight, I try to put myself into the position of one of the fighters, basically taking the punishment for that guy and like I said, I’m pretty well trained so I don’t get hurt.
And while we do that, we have another guy who runs around to try and remove the hurt person from the fight by dodging them and walking away. I have a group of lawyers now that I’m working with that I’m working with on a procedure out and we also have paperwork that we fill out every time that we contact everybody before starting, and that’s pretty recent. I got a call from a lawyer that totally wants to represent me and I was really happy about that and they said we should make a procedure book so I can write down what we do and how we do it and then if cops have a problem, we can show them our procedure.
TEA KRULOS: Speaking of the police, how has your relationship with them been?
PHOENIX JONES: It depends on what police officer you run into (laughs)- some of them love me, literally stop their car, come out and shake my hand and take a photo with me. Other cops think I’m a real vigilante and don’t want to have anything to do with me. I went down to the police station, I went down and talked to them, they said what I was doing was completely legal. They said they just wanted to know my name because if anyone claims they were beaten up or assaulted by me- because I’m actually out there stopping fights- they want to know who to call and I was ok with that, so I released my information to them.
Which I’m kind of regretting now because other people in the community found out my identification and they think I’m not qualified to do this because –this is the thing, I wasn’t even arrested. I was summoned to appear. I drove with my license suspended three times in a row. But really what that means is I had tickets, I couldn’t pay them because I was broke and I got another ticket when I was broke and I had to go to court, and when I went I got it taken care of, I never spent a day in jail.
Then about a month later, I got pulled over again, and I still had not paid my fine and they gave me a summons to court and said I had to appear, and I said OK, and it was the same thing. The judge said you can go to jail, or pay the fine. And my mom paid the fine for me, which was cool, and then I paid her back for it. But I never spent a day in jail and I don’t know why, why people don’t think I’m qualified to be a superhero. Mr. Ravenblade came after me, saying he knew information about me- that is the only information he could know.
I thought it was more important to be out there on the street fighting and protecting, and everytime I got pulled over it-I was on my way-I had the ski mask on, I’ve never been pulled over in my civilian attire. The more of the bigger crimes I’ve stopped, the more police have started to respect me.
TEA KRULOS: You mentioned Mr. Ravenblade- how has your experience with the Real Life Superhero community been?
PHOENIX JONES: I’m actually really ecstatic about real life superheroes. I can’t take the RLSH off my name. People are mad at me for certain things I can’t control, which is amusing to me. The RLSH has to be in my name because Phoenix Jones is a very famous band, and the guy from the band who my friend knows I guess is really angry that I call myself Phoenix Jones, but my lawyers tell me if I put Phoenix Jones RLSH or Phoenix Jones- Guardian of Seattle as my entire title, they can’t sue me. So I’m legally bound to those titles.
And they got mad at me for that. Not only that, but what does it matter? What does fighting crime have anything to do with the title of my name, it’s ridiculous.
(Editor’s note: I’ll summarize this next few minutes of the interview- Phoenix Jones was criticized for typing in all capital letters, which he attributes to a broken computer keyboard.)
TEA KRULOS: You did get a chance to meet White baron and Sky Man.
PHOENIX JONES: Those guys are awesome… Guess who’s calling me right now? Sky Man’s on the other line, I’ll be right back…
He says hello. I think he really expected me to relax or take my mask off, but I never take my mask off. I had to blindfold him when we took him to our secret hideout, so I’m sure he thinks I’m crazy. (laughs)
TEA KRULOS: So what are your plans now that people know who you are, you’ve gotten this media, and what do you plan on doing with this momentum?
PHOENIX JONES: The plan for the Rain City Superheroes is to help people, that’s the number one goal. I think the best way to help people – if you give someone a sandwich, your help lasts as long as the nutrients in that sandwich, but if someone stops you from being killed by a knife or a shot, if I step in (Editor’s note: audio is completely unclear for a couple seconds, but basically explains how saving people’s life from violent crime is his goal)
And I think that is why I took crime fighting and street prevention as my number one task, but what everyone doesn’t know is that before all of my patrols I do a hand out to homeless people. That’s how I start all my patrols. I’ve also gone to a couple schools to talk about drug prevention, and looking at more schools in my neighborhood to talk about drug prevention. I have a comic book that is going to be released soon. It talks about being bullied, because I was bullied a lot in high school- I spent a lot of high school in a locker. So I have things to tell people that have nothing to do with crime fighting. But I feel that the attention is needed to get the other message. I don’t think anyone is going to listen to a guy walking around handing out sandwiches.
Phoenix Jones…people believe Phoenix Jones may help them, I mean they know they can’t count on it 100 percent, because it’s so random, but they know it is possible.
TEA KRULOS: You mentioned stepping in front of a knife. Tell me the story of you being stabbed.
PHOENIX JONES: Well, it’s kind of a catch-22. The reason there is a dispute about this story is because when you have a secret identity, it’s because of the police. I wasn’t able to confirm if the police were crooked, so that is why the police report says I was not stabbed. On my Facebook I had (a picture of the scar) but I had to take it off because the scar is kind of signature looking. Basically what happened was I was underneath the Hub(?) bridge at about 3 in the morning and I actually had my girlfriend and two kids in the car down the street.
Before I was really fighting crime, I was handing out food just to get comfortable. I parked down the street and my girl was in the car and the kids were sleeping in the back because we just got home from a trip. And so I was walking around handing out apples and bananas and I saw these two guys fighting and I ran in there. One guy pulled out a knife and I pulled out a tazer and started flashing the tazer and a guy came up behind me and grabbed my shoulder and I felt a punch to my kidney. I was wearing bulletproof apparatus on my back- not the kind I have now. I turned around and that guy was running and the other guy had sat down. I went to pursue that guy and the police showed up and pulled out their guns and told us to get down on the ground and handcuffed all of us to figure out what we were doing. The other homeless people vouched for me, said I came there a lot and I was a good guy, and that’s why the police uncuffed me.
Then in the middle of the thing they said ‘it looks like you have a hole in the back of your suit.’ And that’s when I felt pain. They said, ‘it looks like you’ve been stabbed,’ and I said I was not, I was fine, but I said that because I didn’t want to reveal my secret identity. Then I went to the hospital and got that taken care of. Then later, a news reporter I know personally asked me about the scar on my back, and I said ‘that’s where I got stabbed.’ He ran it in the story because I didn’t tell him not to. You don’t see Batman walk into the ER in his batsuit, you know?
TEA KRULOS: How often do you patrol?
PHOENIX JONES: I try to put in four or five nights a week. There is a couple days I can’t go out, but I try to shake it up and keep it random. Because once I started getting out people started- not looking for me, but- I recently had a run in with a gang from Oregon called The Peckerwoods, it’s a white supremacist gang. I was able to get a guy arrested with my brass knuckles, and that was probably the scariest encounter I’ve ever had, and the whole gang actually put a hit out for me. So I’m not sure how true- how seriously- the gang is about putting hits out on people but, a friend of mine told me ‘hey, did you mess with The Peckerwoods?’
I hadn’t told anybody about it and I said ‘yeah,’ and she said ‘a friend of mine tells me there’s a little hit out for you.’ It made me uncomfortable, so I’ve gotten paranoid in my older superhero age. (editor’s note: Phoenix Jones is 22 years old) I patrol randomly, I blindfold everyone that bring over, I don’t have a listed address, only a PO Box, my phone numbers are blocked, I’ve become very secretive, because once you actually start fighting crime, you can’t just spit in the face of criminals and expect to walk around.
TEA KRULOS: I’d like to give you the floor now if you’d like to give a message to anyone reading this blog or to the people of Seattle.
PHOENIX JONES: I have a message to two separate groups of people. My first message is to the RLSH.
That message is- I’ve really been hurt by the things that have been said about me. I love you guys, man. When I watched the Dark Guardian video with the drug dealers in New York, you should have seen me. I went crazy! I immediately felt like what I was doing with the homeless outreach wasn’t enough. The day I got a bullet proof vest was the day after I watched that. The way I’ve been perceived has really hurt my face in the superhero community. At large if you didn’t like me or respect what I was doing, talking trash and flaming other people’s reputation isn’t something that I’d be doing to another person, let alone an image or icon or figure.
The last thing to the superheroes- I don’t let criminals go. The incident they are referring to about the guy with the club, he swung the club at me and I was actually able to take the club by force so he was going to charge me for assault, and I was going to charge him for assault, then they found drugs on him- a crack pipe and some crack rocks. So I decided to drop my charges and he dropped his charges on me. But his charges also included crack possession and possession of paraphernalia. And he did walk away, but they gave him a summons to appear in court. So he did not escape, I didn’t press charges because there was no need to at that time. My assault charge wouldn’t hold nearly as much weight as a felony drug possession.
And to Seattle- I really appreciate you guys embracing me. People in the street give me high fives and hugs, and free coffee at a couple different spots, the comic book store is releasing my comic book for me, I met with Seattle police and I’m going to try to set up a meeting with the mayor and I really appreciate the way you guys embrace me, and I hope I don’t let you down. I hope nothing bad happens, but I have a feeling it probably isn’t going to end well. But until it does, I’m going to be out there and I hope every time something bad happens, you guys can fill in for me. There is not enough me to cover the entire city. So when I’m not there you guys can be me. Don’t go in over your head, don’t get yourself in trouble, but what I do is something the average citizen can’t do- I’m just the first one to stand up and say I’m not taking it anymore and I hope you guys stand up with me.