NYPD: Tigers’ den jumper not drunk or crazy
NEW YORK — The 25-year-old man who jumped from a monorail car into the Bronx Zoo’s tiger den was not drunk or insane, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
“Apparently he has some fascination with tigers,” Kelly told CNN affiliate WABC. “He visited the zoo in the last month, month and a half, and focused on that area.”
Kelly added there was no evidence Villalobos is mentally ill or was intoxicated.
“I don’t think it was malicious,” Kelly added. “There was no indication he was drinking, but that he just … momentarily lost any semblance of common sense.”
David Villalobos, who is hospitalized in stable condition, told police “his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger,” according to Paul Browne, chief spokesman for the NYPD.
Villalobos was riding on the zoo’s Wild Asia monorail around 3 p.m. Friday when he jumped out of the rail car, “clearing the exhibit’s perimeter fence” and landing in the den, according to Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny.
Villalobos suffered a broken right shoulder, broken rib, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken pelvis and puncture wounds, according to police spokesman Brian Sessa. Villalobos later claimed to have pet one of the tigers before it backed off, Sessa added.
The commissioner said most of Villalobos’s injuries appear to be the result of the 17-foot fall from the monorail.
Police said Villalobos was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and will be arraigned after he leaves the hospital.
Zoo officials said rescuers used a fire extinguisher to separate the man and the animal. Heeding instructions, Villalobos rolled “under a hot wire to safety,” and the tiger backed off, Breheny said.
The zoo uses so-called hot wires — or electrically charged cables — as training tools to keep animals away from such areas as plant beds. If the animal comes into contact with the wire, it feels a small electric shock.
Villalobos’ decision to follow instructions and roll under the wire “probably saved his life,” Breheny told reporters Friday.
He was “conscious and talking” as he was taken by ambulance to Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
“I think it’s safe to say that if the tiger really wanted to do harm to this individual he certainly had the time to do it,” Breheny said. “This is just an extraordinary occurrence that happened because … somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves.”
The exhibit is called Tiger Mountain and houses Siberian tigers as well as Malayan tigers, according to the Bronx Zoo’s website.
The Bronx Zoo is the city’s flagship park run by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Credit: CNN. CNN’s Brittany Brady contributed to this story.