A 19-year-old college student in Petaluma, California has taken up the iconic identity of the Dark Knight. Cloaked in a disguise he made himself and shielded by the cover of darkness, he roams the streets of downtown Petaluma keeping an eye out for trouble.
He often elicits cheers and high-fives from residents familiar with his mission of inspiring good will. “I truly believe that anyone can be a hero,” said the 19-year-old to reporter Janelle Wetzstein in an interview. “There’s a lot of tough stuff going on around the world, so I wanted to do something to boost people’s morale.”
Petaluma Batman who wished to keep his identity a secret to protect his family’s privacy, has become a Facebook sensation almost overnight. He created a Facebook profile on Dec. 22 just to see how many Petalumans would “Like” his page. Within days, his page had more than 2,700 followers. He has already made a radio appearance, is recognized all over town by random passersby and has exploded on social media with the city taking note.
He’s a typical college student by day, attending Petaluma’s Santa Rosa Junior College campus. He then sits through business courses all morning before heading to his job at a local golf course. But as the sun sets, the student sheds his normal life and adopts the persona of Petaluma Batman. Even though he patrols the streets and bears the markings of a crime fighter, Petaluma Batman says that’s not his role.
“I am in no way trying to get in front of the police or trained law enforcement at all. They keep a tight lock on everything,” he said. “I’m not trying to stop crime personally. If I see something going on, I’ll let the trained authorities know, rather than take justice into my own hands.”
Regular people dressing up like superheroes is not a new phenomenon. They’ve cropped up from Seattle, Wash. to Bar Harbor, Maine, sometimes causing issues for actual law enforcement. For instance, in Seattle, a 10-member costumed crew attempts to prevent crime led by a man called Phoenix Jones, who reported being stabbed while trying to intervene during a fight between a known drug dealer and a citizen.
Petaluma’s very own caped crusader has attained a bit of celebrity with local law enforcement, but so far they’ve been nothing but supportive.
Even City Council member Gabe Kearney has caught Petaluma Batman fever, following his Facebook page and watching his videos.
“I think that anyone trying to help the community is a good thing,” said Kearney. “To do it while bringing some comedic relief is an added bonus.”
Petaluma Batman says he gets the thumbs up from local officers when he patrols the streets. As his fame spreads, he says he is hoping to host some charity events including city cleanup days, and some events for a local theater. He already volunteers — out of costume — with the Special Olympics. Most of all, he’s hoping to strike a positive note in Petaluma.
“When I’m not in my Petaluma Batman costume, I hear people talking about me a lot,” he said. “It’s weird, but I’m glad that I have been able to entertain people and lift their spirits. I just want to inspire some good will.”
The Petaluma Batman is not the first real life superhero – one of the more notable ones being Phoenix Jones of Seattle – but his positive approach is helping to redefine how people think of costumed heroes walking amongst us.
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