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Jason Russell: Neighbors tried to calm him as he acted 'bizarre'

March 16, 2012 |  8:45 pm

Before San Diego police arrived and took Invisible Children filmmaker Jason Russell into custody for his own safety, several neighbors had tried to calm him down without success, according to the San Diego police.

"He continued to act in a bizarre and irrational manner," according to a statement released by police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown.

Neither Brown nor anyone else in the Police Department is confirming that the incident at noontime Thursday near a busy intersection in the Pacific Beach neighborhood involved Russell. The names of people taken into custody for psychological review are not released under department policy.

But the Invisible Children organization and neighbors confirmed that it was Russell who was filmed pounding on the pavement while naked. A native of El Cajon, where his parents run Christian Youth Theatre, the 33-year-old Russell lives in Pacific Beach.

Police were responding to "several callers [who] reported that the male removed his underwear and was nude, perhaps masturbating," according to the statement. By the time police arrived, the man was wearing his 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."

Police took the man to a mental health facility for observation after determining that he was a potential danger to himself or others. Officers decided that his "bizarre and irrational behavior would most appropriately be handled by transporting him to a local medical facility for further evaluation and treatment."

No criminal charges are pending, Brown said.

A video has now surfaced allegedly showing Russell in the moments before police arrived.

The video on TMZ.com shows a naked man angrily pounding the pavement with his hands.

Invisible Children, a San Diego-based nonprofit, confirmed the hospitalization. Reporters on Friday were blocked from visiting the group's headquarters in downtown San Diego, and Invisible Children workers were seen crying and talking on cellphones.

Ben Keesey, the company's chief executive officer, said Russell was suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition.

"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," Keesey said in a statement.

"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," Keesey said. "We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time."

Invisible Children's video about African militia leader Joseph Kony has attracted more than 80 million viewers, provoking a worldwide outcry about violence, sex slavery and the use of child soldiers.

Russell, a graduate of USC, has made numerous television appearances since the video went viral, describing the video and, in some interviews, being required to answer allegations that the video misstates the facts about Kony's current whereabouts and the strength of his militia.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego