Man mauled by tiger at Bronx Zoo, wanted to be “one with the tiger”

Posted at 10:14 PM, Sep 22, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-22 22:14:32-04

The man who jumped out of the Bronx Zoo’s monorail into the tiger exhibit is expected to face criminal charges, according to law enforcement officials.

Investigators now believe that David Villalobos was not attempting to commit suicide Friday afternoon when he made the leap into the tiger den. Villalobos, 25, was mauled by a Siberian tiger before zoo employees rescued him by using fire extinguishers to distract the big cat, zoo officials said.

Based on Villalobos’ statements to investigators and what they’ve seen on his Facebook page it appears he was obsessed with the tigers and just wanted to be with them, police said.

“The NYPD anticipates arresting David Villalobos on a trespassing complaint by Bronx Zoo authorities,” police spokesman Paul Browne said Saturday. “When an NYPD sergeant asked Villalobos yesterday why had jumped into the tiger preserve, he replied that ‘everyone has a reason for what they do in life.'”

According to Browne, Villalobos told NYPD detectives that his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be “one with the tiger.”

Villalobos told investigators he incurred most of his injuries from landing on all fours after the fall and that he recalled being dragged by the tiger by his foot, and afterwards being able to pet the tiger.

The tiger named Bachuta could have killed Villalobos who was in the enclosure for about 10 minutes, Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said.

“Tigers are extremely capable predators: They typically grab a prey animal by the back of the neck and it’s over very quickly,” Breheny said. “This cat did not do this to the individual.”

Villalobos, who is from Mahopac, suffered “various bites or puncture wounds on his arms and legs and also the top of his shoulder on his back,”  Breheny said. He also suffered a broken arm and ankle, perhaps from the 17-foot drop off the monorail. He is in stable condition at Jacobi Medical Center.