Fall of the Phoenix: Seattle's superhero on wrong side of law

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Police have arrested a self-styled superhero who claims to have prevented trouble on the streets of Seattle, but who appears to have found himself on the wrong side of the law.

The 23-year-old, who calls himself Phoenix Jones and wears a black mask with yellow stripes and a bulging muscle suit, is accused of assaulting several people with pepper spray. He is being held on four counts of assault.

"Just because he's dressed up in costume, it doesn't mean he's in special consideration or above the law. You can't go around pepper spraying people because you think they are fighting," said a police spokesman.

Jones – real name Benjamin Fodor – insists he was only trying to stop a street brawl and wrote on his Facebook page that said he wouldn't "ever assault or hurt another person if they were not causing harm to another human being".

He also released a video shot during the alleged assault. The often shaky footage shows Jones and his sidekick, known only as Ghost, running towards a group of people. Jones said there was a fight in the group, but police say there was no evidence of this.

The footage goes on to show Jones scuffling with the group. Then a woman screams at him, hitting him with her high-heeled shoes. Jones appears to be holding a canister of pepper spray.

Moments later, a car appears and speeds away up the street, almost hitting an unidentified man.

Jones chases after the car to get its registration number. He and his followers then approach the rest of the group further down the street.

A woman runs up to Jones and hits him, screaming: "You sprayed pepper spray in my eye!" Two men in the group approach Jones, who then appears to pepper spray them.

Jones told a local radio station that police took his suit, boots and mask, but reassured listeners that he has a back-up suit. He claimed that, while Seattle police were mostly tolerant of his actions, a few officers had a "grudge" against him. AP

Jones has been the most public face of a group of vigilante crimestoppers to show up in Seattle in the last couple of years. His exploits have garnered much attention and a camera crew has been following his every move.