For this week's First-Person Shooter, we handed off two cameras to Citizen Saint, a self-described real-life superhero—a.k.a. a "First Response neighborhood watchman"—who patrols the streets of Missouri in costume, looking to help fellow citizens who may be in distress. As a member of the national organization The Community Superheroes, Citizen Saint's identity is kept a secret. His equipment list includes bandaids, gauze, blood stop, tape, and emergency blankets for the homeless. We talked to him about what it means to be an IRL superhero after he sent us the photos he took during a day in his super life.
VICE: What do you do, exactly? What are your goals?
Citizen Saint: Great question. The mission has expanded over time. I'm certainly not the person/hero I was when I started. I walk through neighborhoods and I wave to folks. I stop and talk to anyone who will talk to me, and I spread the message. And that message is this: We are all one humanity. We're all one community—we bleed the same, we love the same, we hate, we work, we pay, we need. Instead of focusing on how different we are, we need to focus on how similar we are, and simply accept and respect what differences we have.
Do you carry any utilities or weapons?
I have weapons to defend myself or to defend others who I might find being attacked, but that would be an incredibly rare occurrence. My packs are stuffed with bandaids, gauze, blood stop, tape, alcohol wipes, and other medical items. I also carry water and emergency blankets for the homeless. I patch up people—kids who fell off their bikes, or the man who cut himself doing his lawn who you see in the photos. I view myself as a hero who serves by helping others, not by hurting.
How long have you been doing this?
I began back in November, but a lot of that was scouting and getting the layout of areas where I wanted to have a presence. In January, I began wearing the suit on patrols, and in February, I put neighborhood watch fliers on homes in the neighborhood. What's scary is that nobody saw a man in a shiny outfit until July!
What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you while on patrol?
I had a man become very agitated when I was talking to his family. He was highly distrustful and called me several names until his kids and wife explained who I was. Even then, he was still very angry, but at the world, not at me.
Turns out, he had been branded a sex offender when he was 17 after having consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend. That mistake had haunted him his whole life, and he has received harassment from news media and from neighbors who don't see past the sex offender label. We talked for an hour or so, and I told him about advocacy groups he can appeal to to have his name cleared. We parted as neighbors, but it was certainly not something I was expecting!
Can you tell me about your costume?
The base layer comes from Jeffrey Scott, a designer in Chicago who makes lifting and cycling gear for men. The mask was custom ordered from a mask maker. The boots are muck chore boots and the armor is police riot gear purchased from suppliers online. I have a stun baton, like you would see in a sci-fi movie, and an extendable, metal police baton. I also carry mace, and have a body cam, as well. I'm always open to suggestions for other cool gear!
Do you go out with other superheroes?
So far, I patrol alone. If others want to join me, I'd welcome the company! I am a member of a national organization called "Community Superheroes." We have members all over America.
Why do you keep your identity secret?
I keep my identity secret, as all superheroes should. I have a life outside of this, and I need to be able to enjoy my privacy. I am not doing this to become famous.