Tea Krulos is a freelance journalist currently researching and writing a book about the "Real Life Superhero" phenomenon. Based in Milwaukee, he has interviewed costumed crusaders across the country, finding out what makes them tick and tagging along with them on their nightly crime-fighting escapades. Last weekend he was in Seattle, and he had his most eventful evening yet. Krulos was with Phoenix Jones and his crew when Jones charged into an unruly crowd gathered on the sidewalk and discharged a can of pepper spray. Now, in an interview with Seattle Weekly, the author says Jones' actions and subsequent arrest illustrate "the difference between comic books and real life."
Video of the encounter recorded by Ryan McNamee, a documentary filmmaker who frequently accompanies Jones on patrol, paints a different picture. Rather than "frolicking," it appears as though the group was brawling on the street corner. When Jones tries to break up the fight using pepper spray, several individuals become enraged, including a drunk woman who attempts to pummel Jones with her high-heeled stilettos.
Jones and his publicist have criticized the arresting officer for failing to view video of the incident or take a statement from Krulos, who was an eyewitness to the entire encounter. In response, earlier this week Krulos posted his official "testimony" on his blog "Heroes in the Night." Here's an excerpt:
We heard some loud, aggressive shouting.
McNamee said "Phoenix, there's a big fight!" We looked down the ramp and saw a group of 7-9 people in the middle of Columbia Street. The males in the group were pushing and hitting each other and there was a lot of yelling. Jones began to run down the ramp towards them and yelled "CALL 9-11!" As we ran after him, I observed one of the males in the group slam a man into the street and then began kicking him. Two men nearby were grappling with each other.
Jones ran into the middle of the group and yelled "BACK OFF!" a couple times, holding a canister of pepper spray up to display that he was armed with it. He then sprayed one or two of the men who were fighting with the pepper spray...
...about four of the men, who spoke in Russian, crossed the street. They joined the females and began punching Ghost and McNamee, throwing McNamee into a wall. Jones ran over and dispersed them with more pepper spray. He began leading me, McNamee, and Ghost into putting space between the two groups. As I was walking to catch up with them, still on the phone, one of the men ran up and punched me on the right side of my face. "You are with them! Why?!" He shouted. I told him I wasn't with anyone and told him to back away. I told 911 I had to cut short their questions and take cover because we were "under attack." I cut through an opposing parking lot and half hid behind a concrete pillar.
Krulos goes on to describe how the first SPD officer on the scene told everyone except Jones to leave or else they would all be arrested for assault. He says he watched as Jones was unmasked and arrested, and left shortly afterward.
I interviewed Krulos over the phone back in June when I was reporting the SW feature story, "The (Alleged) Adventures of Phoenix Jones," and we traded e-mails again earlier this week.
SW: Why do you think Seattle police didn't ask for your statement, or to see McNamee's video? Did you talk to the arresting officer at all, other than to handover your ID?
Krulos: I think the officers were very pissed at the situation at hand and especially at Phoenix Jones. They did ask to see McNamee's footage--they watched a few moments of it through his viewfinder and then told him to turn it off. The officer said "I see chaos, but not fighting." The officer asked why I was there and I told him I was a writer. That is the extent of my conversation with them, other than providing my phone number and address of the friend I was staying with in Seattle.
Did you get the impression that officer had a "vendetta" against Phoenix Jones as he has claimed elsewhere in the Seattle media?
I don't know the background story between this officer and Jones; I hear there is one but don't know if that is true--I do plan to look more into this after I get a little more settled. He certainly was not pleased to be encountering Jones. He said "I'm tired of this game." And pretty quickly determined he was detaining him.
Was it clear from where you were standing on First Avenue what was happening with the confrontation on the block below? From the video it was really hard to tell what was happening.
As we were at the top of the hill, I did see pushing and punching and angry yelling. I don't know how serious it was. As we ran toward the scene I did see a man pushed to the ground and kicked and another two guys grappling each other.
Do you think Phoenix could have diffused the situation without using pepper spray? Did doing that make things worse?
I think the use of pepper spray escalated the situation. People became very pissed off and confused and things got out of control. It is a little hard to speculate, but if he did not use pepper spray it might have been a much different story. It was definitely a scene that illustrated the difference between real life and comic books.