Three members of the Guardian Angels, who wear red berets and white T-shirts and volunteer to fight crime in Davenport, face felony charges after beating a man, police said.
James Steel, 30; Thomas Buechel, 51; and Stephen Cypret, 30; all of Davenport, are charged in Scott County with assault causing serious injury in connection with an April 25 incident.
Steel and a fourth Guardian Angel, Thomas J. Cress, 28, also are charged with making false reports and false imprisonment. Buechel and Cypret also are charged with false imprisonment.
Steel, who is the leader of the Davenport chapter of the Guardian Angels and goes by the street name “Nitro,” said Tuesday he and his fellow Angels acted in self defense.
“He kept getting real aggressive toward us,” Steel said of the victim, whose name is not being released by police. “He swung on me.”
The Guardian Angels is a volunteer organization of unarmed citizens.
The four men were “on duty” and were wearing their signature uniforms when the assault occurred at 12:48 a.m. April 25 in the 600 block of West 3rd Street, Davenport police Detective Bill Thomas said.
Steel also said they were on duty at the time of the incident.
Steel and the other Guardian Angels confronted a 25-year-old man who was living with a woman Steel has children by, Thomas said.
After an argument, the Angels pushed the victim against a wall, punched him in the face and broke his arm, Thomas said. Then they shoved the victim to the ground, and one held the victim in a headlock while another put handcuffs on him.
After the incident they called police to report that the victim was harassing a woman, Thomas said.
Steel said Tuesday that the man was “stalking” the woman.
When police arrived, they took the handcuffs off the victim and called an ambulance, Thomas said. The victim has not been charged with any crime.
He was taken to Genesis Medical Center, East Rusholme Street, Davenport and then to University Hospitals, Iowa City.
The suspects broke the victim’s arm in three places, Thomas said.
“They had plenty of time to call the police and didn’t,” Thomas said of the suspects.
Steel does not apologize for his actions.
“There’s always someone out there who will be stupid and swing on us,” Steel said. “They swing on cops. Like cops, we have the right to defend ourselves in any way that we can.”
Steel said he will resign as chapter leader and may remove himself from the Guardian Angels pending the outcome of the police investigation.
“If we’re found not guilty, then I’ll come back,” he said.
Steel and the others were charged on Monday.
Buechel goes by his street name “Tank,” Cypret goes by “Cowboy” and Cress goes by “Venom.”
Guardian Angels do not reveal their real names for security reasons, they say. They usually report on crime in the downtown area.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Department runs background checks on all Guardian Angels, said Steel and 5th Ward Alderman Bill Lynn.
Lynn, who was instrumental in bringing the Angels to Davenport, said the assault charges damages the credibility of the organization.
“Obviously it hurts, no doubt about it,” he said.
Lynn said he wants to learn more about what happened before passing judgement.
“It’s their word against the other person involved. I’m not sure how strong the case is,” Lynn said.
“They’re trained to protect themselves,” he added. “They’re on pretty mean streets sometimes.”
Davenport had 44 Guardian Angels at its inception in 2007. Steel said eight to 12 regularly participate on the weekends.
The Guardian Angels was founded in New York City in 1979.