EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 23, 2012

Mauled man says he wanted 'to be one' with tiger

TOM HAYS
Associated Press

---- — 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 yesterday 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 were planning to arrest the hospitalized Villalobos on trespassing charges, Browne said.

It was unclear when that would happen or if the 25-year-old real estate agent had an attorney; attempts to reach relatives yesterday were unsuccessful.

Villalobos’ big-cat exploits Friday afternoon were an instant tabloid sensation: A front page New York Post story yesterday 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 yeserday, Villalobos told detectives that “his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger,” Browne said.

Villalobos remained hospitalized with bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, and a broken arm and a leg caused by the jump.