Longform

This Guardian Angel Bleeds Red

Page 3 of 8

"I have always been a romantic at heart when it comes to right and wrong, good and bad and doing the right thing," he says.

When he returned to Vancouver as a regional director, Sebastian got a job as a stage hand at a theater company. After the shows were over, he and a co-worker whom he'd recruited into the Angels would patrol the alleys from midnight until early morning.

He later set up a chapter in the suburbs of Vancouver, then restarted chapters in Seattle and Portland. Sliwa remembers paying a visit to Seattle when that city was infested with gangs in the late '80s. The whole chapter was living off of watermelon, and Sebastian was the only guy not complaining, he says.

In Seattle, Sebastian was shot with a pellet gun and suffered his worst beating, from a broken bottle. It sent him to the emergency room, but it didn't deter him.

"As an Angel, you get people who give you lip, who don't like you, who don't understand. They say you risk your life for nothing, but it's not for nothing. People appreciate you, they thank you," he says. "I was always attracted to being a hero, and I always enjoyed helping people. It's the best...and if people experienced it, they'd want to get a lot more of it. Maybe something is wrong with my ego, but I just need that, I love it. If you can get that from it, that's the best paycheck."


Of the four Guardian Angels walking Colfax, Sebastian isn't the oldest. Two are twenty-somethings, but sixty-year-old Doc has been an Angel as long as they've been in Denver. It's Doc who spots two kids sitting on their skateboards on a bench outside the Capitol and jumps on the recruitment opportunity.

"What are you guys?" one of the kids asks.

"We're Guardian Angels," Doc tells him.

"What do you do?"

"We help people."

Doc tells them that they can bring in their older brothers and sisters or their parents to the Angels headquarters for free self-defense classes.

"Will it help you to get into the cops or something?" the kid asks.

As the Angels approach a bus stop at Lincoln and Colfax and begin handing out fliers, Sebastian eyes potential members, but not as hard as some of the people at the bus stop are looking at him. Before the heart surgery, Doc says, Sebastian was one of the best recruiters the Angels had. But while the words used to roll right off his tongue, these days he struggles for them. His hands tremble. He forgets to watch where he's walking, takes a couple of steps and collides with a man on the corner.

"Arch Angel is a good recruiter and Doc is a good recruiter, and I'm probably just embarrassing them," Sebastian says. "Sometimes you feel like recruiting when you're out and sometimes you don't; it's like that Almond Joy commercial. But a bunch of guys walking around looking like candy canes? I mean, come on, it's laughable — if it wasn't so serious."


In 1989, Sebastian moved back to New York, where his life was a constant foot chase of purse-snatchers and window-breakers, fights and near-fights. On one patrol, a hooker sliced him with a box knife. In between the action, the Angels passed out fliers on the trains, even though security would harass them. At the end of the day, they'd be lucky to get a donated slice of pizza or a piece of Popeye's chicken with a stale biscuit. It was a different kind of life for Sebastian, but one he took to.

He spent part of his time on the road, starting or restarting chapters in Boston, New Haven, Bridgeport, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He also helped create a chapter in Toronto and was the first Angel to take the cause overseas — to London and Manchester, Berlin, Stockholm, Sydney and Brisbane.

Sebastian was the best man for the job, partly due to his Canadian background and his ability to adapt to any living situation, Sliwa says. Plus, he didn't drink or party, he was a good trainer, and he was one of the most media-savvy people in the group.

The call to Denver came in 1993, after gang-related shootings led to the deaths of several innocent people, including a six-year-old boy shot in a drive-by in Park Hill and a schoolteacher on her way home from work. The Summer of Violence, as it was called, led to national media headlines and a special legislative session.

Sebastian, who hadn't been to Colorado since his family left Drop City, set up shop on East Colfax with the help of Dave Walstrom, who was executive director of Colfax on the Hill and the Colfax Business Improvement District at the time.

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Luke Turf