SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- He wears a black mask to hide his identity, when he goes out on the streets late at night looking for trouble. Hard leather and steel protects his arms and chest in a fight. His appearance is menacing, but the man who goes by the name Mutinous Angel is no criminal.
He refers to himself, and the growing band of others like him, as RLSH: Real Life Super Heroes.
"And that's what you guys need to know, we're there to protect you," Mutinous Angel said. "You need help, we're out there. You may not know that we're out there."
Last weekend, Phoenix Jones, an RLSH who patrols the streets of Seattle, punched out an obnoxious drunk who was harassing people in downtown. The scuffle between the costumed crime fighter and the belligerent man lasted less than a minute and no one was injured. The incident became controversial, mostly because Seattle police stood by and watched the fight, but did not attempt to break it up.
Mutinous Angel goes looking for trouble on the streets, but his mission is to make those streets safer. He has put himself in harms' way, breaking up robberies and assaults and leading police to a hit and run suspect.
Dressed in his superhero "gear," he is armed only with a cell phone. Calling 911 is still the safest way for this superhero to fight crime. But when police cannot respond fast enough, Mutinous Angel will step in to break up a fight or an assault.
"I try to do what's right," Mutinous Angel said. "I have no choice; I have to step in there. I can't run away from it."
Just the strange sight of a superhero approaching is sometimes enough to make troublemakers stand down.
"I've walked down the streets before, just confidently walking toward people, and they just all back away," Mutinous Angel said.
He prefers to stay out of sight, lurking in the shadows or patrolling the streets in his car. He doesn't look for criminals, as much as he does potential victims.
Late on a recent Saturday night in midtown Sacramento, two young women dressed for nightclubs, moved their party to the open trunk of a car on a dark street. To someone with evil intentions, they would appear to be easy targets for robbery, assault or worse. They had no idea that on this night, a guardian angel was watching over them. Mutinous Angel was across the street, lurking in the shadows, but keeping a watchful on the two young women.
Mutinous Angel is a 30-year-old man who's trained in boxing and martial arts. He doesn't pretend to have superpowers and knows that his body won't stop a bullet.
"I allow myself to get hit once first," said Mutinous Angel. "I just can't start throwing punches or kicks. I have to get hit once before I can get physical."
He's preparing for a real career in law enforcement and will probably leave "superhero" off of his resume. Only a few close friends know his secret. For the past four years, he has spent nights on the streets as a costumed crime fighter. Even he thinks the idea of real life superheroes is a little crazy.
"Absolutely! I think it's weird, it's crazy," Mutinous Angel said. "I think we're fools for what we do. But it helps out. We're doing what's right."
Mutinous Angel is one of a dozen RLSH who patrol alone, and sometimes together, mostly on the streets of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and occasionally in Sacramento. And it seems one other Northern California city could use their help.
"We will definitely go to Stockton. That is a plan that we're intending on," Mutinous Angel said.
The Real Life Super Heroes are careful not to interfere with police. Mutinous Angel made some changes to his crime fighting costume, which he refers to as "gear", because cops thought he looked too much like a SWAT officer.
"They think we're either trying to be a terrorist, or one of them," Mutinous Angel said. "So they can't identify us. So we added a little color to our gear."
Another reason that Mutinous Angel prefers to stay in the shadows, is that the superhero costume attracts too much attention. One man was startled by the sight of a real life superhero walking toward him on a sidewalk late at night. But he was also comforted by the idea of costumed crime fighters keeping an eye out for trouble.
"I think they can do some good," Stan Duke said.
Don't count on Mutinous Angel to be there if you're in trouble. A real life superhero can only be in one place at one time. But he does hope to make the streets a little safer and he wants to inspire others to take up the cause, and the mask, of a Real Life Super Hero.
"We're trying to get people to know us," Mutinous Angel said. "Get more teammates, people that would be interested in watching the streets."
For more information on Mutinous Angel and other RLSH, visit the RealLifeSuperHeroes.com website.