Being a spandex-clad superhero might not be out-of-place around Halloween, but Guardian Shield doesn’t pay attention to what the calendar says.
No, he has crime to fight. Or probably just deter.
For 10 months now, the masked man has been patrolling the streets and apartment complexes of Beaverton and Aloha dressed in his home-made red and black uniform and carrying a SWAT-style ballistic shield, both carrying his “GS” emblem. He has logged about 200 hours and hundreds of miles on foot patrols and said he is just getting started.
“Every kid wants to be a superhero growing up,” said the 34-year-old U.S. Army veteran, who doesn’t want his real identity revealed. “Life kicks it out of people.”
But that dream never died for Guardian Shield.
He is the friendliest of superheros, not a taciturn Batman type.
“That works great in Gotham – doesn’t really work so well in our society,” said Guardian Shield, not letting a car or pedestrian pass without a wave or a thumb’s up.
“I’m not out here for the hundreds of people who don’t need me,” he said. “I’m out here for the few who do.”
Shield, as he also is known, has felt the calling ever since the Real Life Super Hero Project launched nearly a decade ago. Another Beaverton-based superhero known as Zetaman (now inactive) was part of that movement and helped inspire Guardian Shield.
Word is starting to get out, both through the media and in his neighborhood because, well, it’s hard not to notice a superhero.
Del Goff, making a delivery into an apartment complex just off Farmington Road, squeaked his truck to a stop to ask who he was and snap a photo for his grandchildren.
A minute later, Janaye McDonnell, who lives in the complex, also walked up for a photo and to thank Shield.
“A superhero walking around the neighborhood: You can’t go wrong with that,” she said. “We’re very thankful to have you.”
He kicked around ideas for his persona and came up with his superhero name long before he put it into action.
“I wanted to be a guardian of the citizens and I wanted to shield people from harm,” he said.
Just as he doesn’t have Batman’s dark knight nature, Shield also doesn’t have Bruce Wayne’s bank account.
Nine years ago, the future Guardian Shield started saving his money and buying equipment as he could afford it. He acquired the shield on eBay, a police baton on Amazon, work boots from a security website, gloves from a motorcycle outfitter, shoulder pads (painted lacrosse gear) from Play It Again Sports and his primary uniform from a website called SpandexMan.com.
“As soon as I had the money, I bought it.”
He spent $2,500.
“You’ve got to look professional,” he explained. “If you dress like a clown, people are going to treat you like a clown.”
To him, besides never growing out of his love of superheroes, his uniform (don’t make the mistake of calling it a costume) conveys a simple message: “I am good and I am here to help.”
“If I was a bad guy, I’m not going to be walking down the middle of the street wearing Spandex.”
While still an infantryman based at Fort Carson in Colorado, he slipped on the uniform a few times and stepped out into public in Colorado Springs. But he kept it pretty low-key.
“I was more just getting over the jitters,” he said.
He left the service late last year and returned to Oregon, where he grew up in rural Aurora.
To be clear, Guardian Shield hasn’t yet saved a life, or foiled a major crime or even collared a petty thief, but he has escorted people down dark driveways, kept a watchful eye out for garages and car doors accidentally left open and occasionally called Washington County Sheriff’s deputies with minor concerns, such as an encounter with a belligerent drunk.
“Yeah, it’s not glamorous and it’s not exciting or awesome, but you know what? No one else is out here.”
He acknowledges when the big stuff comes down, he relies on the cops just like everyone else. He has met deputies who regularly patrol the same neighborhoods he walks and – after they questioned him about what he was doing – they often wave hello and even have asked for selfies.
“They don’t sanction me but they support what I’m doing,” he said.
Getting himself geared up and into action was just the first phase of Guardian Shield’s plan. Phase II is assembling a team called Community Superheroes and broaden the patrols to more neighborhoods.
Several people have offered to be sidekicks, but so far no one has stuck with it. He gave another tryout recently and has high hopes by the increased interest.
“I think she’s gonna be a keeper, if she stays motivated,” he said. “The passion has got to be there.”
A friend also set up a GoFundMe account to help equip Shield and any fellow superheroes who join forces with him, but no one’s getting super rich or even paid at all.
Shield, who has worked in the fitness industry but is currently unemployed, also is currently without wheels. So a sidekick with a car would be helpful.
“If I had a vehicle, I’d be all over,” he said. “That will definitely get the show on the road.”
For the most part, people he meets have been positive, but he does see people slowing down as they pass him – their windows firmly rolled up – who can give him funny looks and the occasional unkind word.
“For every one hater, I get 50 who like what I do.”
He welcomes recent media attention because people are starting to understand why he’s out there. His Facebook page is “blowing up” with likes and messages.
“I’m going to take this and I’m going to do as much good with it as I can,” he said.
“A lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you just become a police officer?’ I say, ‘If they’d let me wear this, I would.’”
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