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‘Kony 2012’ co-creator found intoxicated, masturbating, police say

March 16, 2012 |  2:47 pm

 The co-founder of Invisible Children, a San Diego-based nonprofit that produced the viral "Kony 2012"  video, was detained in Pacific Beach on Thursday afternoon, police said.

Jason Russell appeared to be masturbating in public and vandalizing cars, San Diego police said. He may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, police Lt. Andra Brown said.

Russell was taken to a mental health facility for observation, Brown said.

Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, released a statement saying that Russell was hospitalized and suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.

"He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better," according to the statement. "The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time."

The "Kony 2012" video, about brutal Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony, became a viral sensation, and has been viewed about 80 million times on YouTube.

Kony's reputation was well-documented after decades of murder and plunder. He was indicted by the  International Criminal Court, and President Obama dispatched a special forces team to help catch him last year. But Kony was largely unknown to the West until last week, when the 29-minute video turned him into one of the world's best-known villains.

On the video, Russell asks his young son: "Can I tell you the bad guy's name?"

Russell then shows him Kony's photograph, and explains to viewers that the Lord's Resistance Army abducts children like him for use as sex slaves and child soldiers.

Invisible Children was founded in 2003 by three California film students moved by their experiences with the victims of war in Africa. It occupies a full floor of a San Diego high-rise where photos of child soldiers hang on the walls, along with signs that read "Remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield."

The video sparked controversy; many criticized the slick presentation for glossing over complications and overstating the current threat from Kony.

The Invisible Children's website describes Russell as a "grand storyteller and dreamer." He graduated from USC's film school with a degree in cinema production. The website lists  his admiration for  Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Baz Luhrmann and Dan Eldon.

RELATED:

'Kony 2012': Which 20 celebrities are targeted to help?

'Kony 2012' video makers: This isn't a 'slacktivist thing'

'Kony 2012': Viral video tries to take down Uganda militia leader

-- Tony Perry in San Diego and Richard Winton

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