Co-founder of 'Kony' video group detained in Calif
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A co-founder of the group behind a viral video about a brutal African warlord was detained by police and hospitalized after witnesses saw him running through streets in his underwear, screaming and banging his fists on the pavement.
Jason Russell of Invisible Children was hospitalized for exhaustion less than two weeks after the release of the 30-minute video he narrated about warlord Joseph Kony, said Ben Keesey, the group's chief executive officer.
"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition," Keesey 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."
"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," the statement read.
San Diego police dispatcher transcripts show neighbors began calling around 11:30 a.m. Thursday to report that a man was running around in his underwear in the city's Pacific Beach neighborhood.
"(Subject) is at the corner, banging his hands on the ground, screaming, incoherent," the transcript continues. "People are trying to calm him down, he's been stopping traffic."
Police Lt. Andra Brown said a 33-year-old man was detained and taken to a hospital for medical evaluation. He was never arrested, and no charges are planned.
"At this point, the police department's involvement in the matter is done," Brown said.
Russell "did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion and dehydration," his wife, Danica, said in a statement that denied alcohol or drug use triggered the behavior.
"We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard," his wife's statement read.
Russell, a San Diego native and graduate of the University of Southern California's film school, narrates the video, which has been viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube. In the video, Russell talks to his young son, Gavin, about Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.
Gavin's birth is shown at the beginning of the film. At one point, the boy sums up what his dad does for a living.
"You stop the bad guys from being mean," he says.
At the video's conclusion Russell says, "At the end of my life I want to say that the world we left behind is one Gavin can be proud of, one that doesn't allow Joseph Konys and child soldiers."
Gavin replies: "I'm going to be like you dad. I'm going to come with you to Africa."
The video's overnight success has brought heightened scrutiny to the San Diego-based nonprofit over its tactics and spending practices.
The group has been criticized for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The group acknowledges the video overlooks many nuances but said it functions as a "first entry point" that puts the conflict "in an easily understandable format."
Keesey, the chief executive, released a video on Monday to respond to questions about the group's finances, including the amount of money it spends on travel and operations. He said money that directly benefits the cause accounted for more than 80 percent of its spending from 2007 to 2011.
"I understand why a lot of people are wondering, 'Is this just some slick, kind of fly-by-night, slacktivist thing?' when actually it's not at all," Keesey said. "It's connected to a really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign."
Russell has perhaps been Invisible Children's most public face since founding the group in 2005.
"We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time," Keesey said Friday.