A co-founder of the Invisible Children charity behind a viral video about a brutal central Africa warlord was detained by San Diego police and hospitalized after running through streets in his underwear and acting irrationally, a TV station reported Friday.
Police Lt. Andra Brown told NBC San Diego that Jason Russell was behaving strangely Thursday, screaming, yelling and interfering with traffic while in various states of undress.
Brown said police decided he needed medical attention.
Russell narrates the “Kony 2012” video about wanted African warlord Joseph Kony which became an Internet sensation this month with tens of millions of views on YouTube.
The video, however, has brought heavy scrutiny of Invisible Children’s strategy and financial practices.
Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, said in a prepared statement that Russell was hospitalized after an unspecified incident.
“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.”
Keesey said Russell’s work had helped many “and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue.”
“We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time,” Keesey said.
Russell, a San Diego native and a graduate of the film school at the University of Southern California, also was director of the video.
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,” the boy 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 sudden success of the video brought heightened scrutiny to the San Diego-based nonprofit.
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 CEO, has said money that directly benefits the cause accounted for more than 80 percent of its spending from 2007 to 2011, and that spending on its own expenses surged last year because of a grant specifically given for operations.
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