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A masked man patrols Tucson's parks to help those in need

You might catch a glimpse of him on a Saturday morning at Armory Park. Or maybe you'll spot him on a Sunday afternoon at El Presidio Park. Don't bother to rub your eyes. You will be seeing clearly—a man wearing a wolf mask and cap, dressed in dark clothes.

Known as "Monzon," this masked crusader is on a mission to make Tucson a better place. During the week, Monzon says, he has a "very respectable white-collar job." He arrives at our meeting wearing a buttoned shirt, colorful tie and crisp pants. But that's all I can say about Monzon's appearance. He wishes to stay anonymous.

Monzon is part of the real-life superhero, or RLSH, community—people who disguise themselves in masks or costumes while fighting crime or doing community service. Superheroes are located across the globe—including Knight Warrior in the United Kingdom, Lion Heart in Liberia, Entomo the Insect Man in Italy and the Crimson Canuck in Canada.

The United States has its own superheroes, some with catchy names and flashy attire. Washington, D.C. 's, Guardian is a standout with a blue mask and red, white and blue costume. Cool-sounding superheroes such as Dark Guardian, Green Scorpion, Motor Mouth and Doktor Discord are among those listed on the World Superhero Registry. (Check it out online.)

Monzon doesn't see himself as a superhero but instead as someone doing what he can to help our city. "I identify myself as part of the (RLSH) community, but I have no illusions of being Batman or a vigilante. I'm not here to stop all crime or think I'm going to chase the cartel out of Tucson. I try to make Tucson a better place."

While members of the Seattle-based Rain City Superhero Movement fight crime, Monzon doesn't work as they do. "Those guys are Batman/vigilante-style. They go out with bulletproof vests, break up fights and do citizen arrests. I have a lot of respect for them, but that's not what I do. I don't foresee myself doing that in the future."

Monzon says he goes to downtown parks about once a week, for about 30 to 45 minutes. Donning his mask, he carries a backpack with food and supplies he has purchased for the homeless. He also writes in a black notebook, recording names of people and what they need.

"The first time I went out (in November), I met a guy named Victor and his girlfriend. She was pregnant and needed magnesium. So the next time I went out, I brought a blanket and magnesium pills."

Monzon may see some of the same people each week, but there are others who disappear. "The second time I went out, I met a guy named Douglas. He said he needed shaving supplies. When I went back the next week, I didn't see him and so I gave away the supplies. The next week I saw him and he said he needed a winter hat." Monzon later bought the hat but has not seen Douglas since. He carried around that hat for four months.

On another patrol, Monzon was offered drugs. "This guy said he was (new) in town. I gave him some food and he tried to sell me crystal meth. I said 'No, thank you' and continued to give out what I had. Then I drove down the road and called the police."

Fear of reprisal from drug dealers keeps Monzon masked, plus the fact that he "doesn't want this getting back to me at work." He also believes that drug dealers are a risk to the community and should be dealt with by law enforcement.

"The mask is a good way to draw attention. ... I can definitely feel a momentum. I used to ... contact people so they can help me out. Now I have people coming out of the blue ... contacting me wondering if I can help them out ... or if they can help me out." (Monzon is on Facebook at Monzon RLSH.)

Monzon says he isn't seeking publicity and seems modest about his work. He doesn't want to tell others what to do. He simply hopes that people will do what they can to help.

"I don't look at this as a vigilante-type thing or a comic-book thing. I just look at this from a pragmatic angle. This is how I can do the most good."

More by Irene Messina

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