'Kony' creator Jason Russell felt intense pressure, friend says
Invisible Children filmmaker Jason Russell, who created the viral "Kony 2012" video, felt the pressure of the global spotlight, his friend and colleague said in a video statement on Russell's bizarre encounter with police last week.
The organization's chief executive, Ben Keesey, said "these last two weeks have been tough" as the video received global attention and millions of views.
He said the pressure "was hard for all of us, but it was especially hard for Jason because the story was so personal for him and his family. That pressure took a serious toll on him, and unfortunately the whole world saw that."
Russell, 33, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by San Diego police after neighbors reported him running naked in the streets of the Pacific Beach neighborhood, pounding his fists on the sidewalk and shouting incoherently. Police took him to a mental health facility for observation.
Police responded to "several callers [who] reported that the male removed his underwear and was nude, perhaps masturbating," according to the police statement. By the time police arrived, the man was wearing underwear.
"The callers reported the underwear-clad male was in the street, interfering with traffic, screaming, yelling incoherently and pounding his fists on the sidewalk," according to a statement released by police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown. "He continued to act in a bizarre and irrational manner."
A statement by Russell's wife, Danica, and other members of his family suggested that the criticism of the "Invisible Children" video about African militia leader Joseph Kony may have contributed to Russell's bizarre behavior.
"Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard," the statement said.
Among other things, critics said the video misstated the facts about the current level of violence in Uganda, Kony's current whereabouts and the strength of his militia forces.
"Jason has dedicated his adult life to this cause, leading to [the] KONY 2012 [video]," the family statement said. "We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it."
In an apparent comment to the nonprofit organization's many volunteers, the statement concludes: "On our end, the focus remains only on his health, and protecting our family. We'll take care of Jason, you take care of the work. The message of the film remains the same: Stop at nothing."
The organization plans to distribute materials about Kony in several major cities, including San Diego, in April.
Russell is a native of El Cajon, where his parents run the Christian Youth Theater. A graduate of USC, he cofounded Invisible Children, which later moved to an office building in downtown San Diego.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego and Shelby Grad
Photo: Jason Russell in 2010. Credit: Fox 5 San Diego