NEW YORK (AP) — Before his now-infamous tangle with a Bronx Zoo tiger, David Villalobos adorned his Facebook page with New Age odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like, "Be love and fearless."
Police said Saturday that Villalobos had told detectives that it was without fear that he leaped from an elevated train into the animal's den. His reason, they said, was that "he wanted to be one with the tiger."
Villalobos also recounted how, after he landed on all fours, the 400-pound beast attacked him and dragged around by his foot, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. Despite serious injuries, he claimed he was able to get his wish and pet the tiger — a male Siberian named Bashuta — before his rescue, the spokesman added.
Based on those admissions and a complaint from the zoo, police charged the hospitalized Villalobos with misdemeanor trespassing on Saturday. It was unclear if the 25-year-old real estate agent had an attorney, and attempts to reach relatives were unsuccessful.
Villalobos' big-cat exploits Friday afternoon were an instant tabloid sensation: A front page New York Post story on Saturday was headlined "MAULED!" The Daily News countered with "ZOO-ICIDE," speculating a death wish.
Police had said earlier that Villalobos admitted to a police officer at the scene that he made a conscious decision to jump — "Everyone has a reason for what they do in life," he was quoted as saying — but that his motives were murky and an arrest uncertain.
That changed when, during a follow-up interview Saturday, Villalobos told detectives that "his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger," Browne said.
Browne said Villalobos was charged because he had gone "beyond a perimeter security fence and an electrified wire designed to keep the public out and the tiger in."
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly described Villalobos' actions as "foolish," in part because they put zoo personnel "in harm's way."
Villalobos remained hospitalized with bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis and a collapsed lung. Police said there was no indication he was intoxicated.
The Wild Asia exhibit that's home to the tiger was operating as usual on Saturday, zoo officials said, declining to comment further.
Villalobos' Facebook page makes clear his infatuation with wildlife. One of several postings from Thursday was a photo of a tiger licking a cub, and the comment, "Nice." Another was of a black jaguar.
An earlier post displayed a promo for a movie called "Facing Animals," a Dutch documentary about "the complex and often bizarre relationship between man and animal."
His comment: "This looks fascinating."
Villalobos' own bizarre encounter began with a ride on the elevated train that takes unrestrained visitors over the Bronx River and through a forest, where they glide along the top edge of a fence past elephants, deer and a tiger enclosure. He and a date had taken in the same sights from the monorail during a visit to the zoo about two weeks ago, police said Saturday.
This time without warning, Villalobos apparently jumped out of his train car and cleared the 16-foot-high perimeter fence. He was alone with Bashuta for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by zoo officials, who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away.
The zookeepers instructed him to roll under an electrified wire to get to safety, zoo director Jim Breheny said. They then called the tiger into a holding area.
The Bronx Zoo, one of the nation's largest zoos, sprawls over 265 acres and contains hundreds of animals, many in habitats meant to resemble natural settings. Its exhibits include Tiger Mountain, Congo Gorilla Forest and World of Reptiles.
There are 10 tigers at the Wild Asia exhibit, but the 11-year-old Bashuta was the only one on display at the time. Zoo officials said he would remain in the rotation.
"When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it's very hard to stop that," said Breheny. "The tiger did nothing wrong."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The deaf community in South Africa says an interpreter for Nelson Mandela's memorial was a fake. A revelation that has caused an uproar worldwide.
Police arrested a man after he apparently sent threatening letters to a woman and to himself to throw police off track. Officials said he also set his own truck on fire.
The program provides free cab rides home to impaired drivers during the holiday season until January 1.
Police arrested two people after they went on a shopping spree using credit cards that were stolen from a woman at gunpoint in her parent’s driveway. Police were able to arrest the suspects within hours because the credit card companies told the victim where her cards were being used.
O'Donnell will be performing country music, inspirational ballads, pop hits and Irish standards at the Embassy Theatre, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at 7 p.m.
Check out the photos viewers sent NewsChannel 15 of the snowfall on Wednesday.
A man who appeared to provide sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was a "fake," the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said on Wednesday.
While there are no serious crashes to report, snowy roads made for a dangerous morning commute. Roads are still extremely slick in places and they could stay that way for most of the day.
Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control is offering free straw to anyone in Allen County who needs animal bedding during the cold winter.
Visitors to downtown Fort Wayne can now stay connected on all their wi-fi capable devices thanks to new hot spots at Freimann Square and One Summit Square.
The public is invited to attend, and encouraged to bring gifts for the animals, the 2013 Christmas Open House from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The suspension of a 6-year-old boy for kissing a girl at school is raising questions about whether the peck should be considered sexual harassment.
Time magazine selected Pope Francis as its Person of the Year on Wednesday, saying the Catholic Church's new leader has changed the perception of the 2,000-year-old institution in an extraordinary way in a short time.
The chief of a southwestern Indiana volunteer fire department has resigned after being confronted about postings on his Facebook page saying he was a racist and had joined the Ku Klux Klan.
Fort Wayne City Council passed nearly 20 bills at their meeting Tuesday night gearing up for the new year.