‘Kony 2012′ filmmaker detained in San Diego; Invisible Children CEO cites “exhaustion, dehydration”

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the mega-viral "Kony 2012" documentary, was hospitalized after being detained by San Diego police Thursday, the San Diego Police Department said.

Russell, 33, the co-founder of the San Diego-based advocacy group Invisible Children, was detained on San Diego's Pacific Beach after police responded to reports from several callers that a man "was running through the street in his underwear,...interfering with traffic, banging his hands on the sidewalk," and behaving irrationally, a San Diego Police Department spokeswoman said.

Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey released a statement Friday saying Russell had been suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition and stress in the aftermath of the extraordinary amount of attention the advocacy group's film on Lord's Resistance Army guerrilla leader Joseph Kony received.

"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better," Keesey said in a statement released to NBC News Friday. "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."

"Several callers called the police department [Thursday] to report the bizarre behavior from a gentleman, white male, age 33, who lived in the Pacific Beach Area," San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown told Yahoo News Friday. "Callers said he was running through the street in his underwear, ...someone said he was naked and masturbating. Officers could not confirm that."

"He was interfering with traffic, banging his hands on the sidewalk, yelling and screaming, people were trying to calm him down," Brown said.

Officers who responded to the scene determined that "the best course of action was to transport him to a local medical facility for evaluation and treatment," Brown said. "There are no charges at this time."

Russell's 30-minute documentary "Kony 2012" on the Ugandan guerrilla leader became an unprecedented Internet sensation, receiving over 80 million viewers since its release last week. But the film has also kicked up a backlash of criticism against the group. Russell has defended his film from some who have charged it oversimplifies facts about the more than two-decade old Central African conflict.

Invisible Children has also found many prominent defenders of its work, from members of Congress to President Barack Obama, who sent 100 U.S. special forces to Uganda last fall to search for Kony.

"I think that these guys are getting mercilessly picked apart by a bunch of intellectual elites who spend their days tweeting but never trending," Cameron Hudson, former Bush White House Africa hand, told Yahoo News last week. "If their aim is to raise awareness, they have done that in spades."

Updated: This post was updated late Friday to note that Russell was detained and sent to the hospital, not arrested by San Diego police, as an earlier version of the report, citing the NBC San Diego affiliate, initially said. It was updated Saturday morning with a Yahoo News interview with the San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown offering a fuller account of what she said had transpired, as well as with the statement from the CEO of Invisible Children.

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