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Jason Russell hospitalized, 'focused on getting better'

March 17, 2012 |  8:18 am

Jason Russell

Invisible Children filmmaker Jason Russell, who created  the viral "Kony 2012" video, was being treated by doctors after San Diego police were called in a bizarre incident Thursday.

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 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."

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

A statement by his wife, Danica Russell, and other members of Russell's 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," said the statement.

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 co-founded Invisible Children, which later moved into an office building in downtown San Diego.

A New York-based public relations firm released a statement from the organization's chief executive, Ben Keesey, acknowledging that Russell had been hospitalized.

"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition," the statement said. "He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. 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."


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Jason Russell in 2010. Credit: Fox 5 San Diego