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Exhaustion blamed for 'irrational' behavior by 'Kony 2012' filmmaker

A San Diego police spokesperson tells NBC about the circumstances leading up the temporary detainment of a man who had been interfering with nearby traffic.

Jason Russell, co-founder of and director of Invisible Children.

Updated Saturday 12:00 p.m. ET: SAN DIEGO – The maker of an Internet film gone viral that calls for the arrest of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony has been hospitalized in California following an "unfortunate incident" that his group and family said on Friday stemmed from the emotional toll of recent weeks.

Jason Russell, director of the 30-minute "Kony 2012" video and co-founder of the group Invisible Children, was hospitalized on Thursday for "exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition," Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey said in a statement.

"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, without providing further details.

"Jason's passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue," he said.

Russell "did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion and dehydration," his wife said Friday night, a day after he was detained over reports of a man masturbating and acting strangely, NBC News reported.

Danica Russell, in a family statement obtained by NBC News, suggested sudden attention and criticism of the film may have led to her husband's behavior.


"We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it," Danica Russell said. "While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason -- and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.

She denied her husband had substance abuse or drinking problems.

"On our end the focus remains only on his health, and protecting our family. We'll take care of Jason, you take care of the work. The message of the film remains the same: stop at nothing," she added.

Earlier, NBCSanDiego.com reported police Lt. Andra Brown as saying that Jason Russell, 33, was detained by police Thursday in the Pacific Beach neighborhood.

"The San Diego Police Department received several calls that he was acting bizarrely, running into traffic, interfering with traffic, yelling," Brown said.

She said officers detained the man, who according to witnesses was in "various stages of undress," but did not arrest him after determining that it was more appropriate to transport him to a medical facility. She declined to name him.

Brown said police responded to reports in the Pacific Beach area of a man in his underwear, running in the street and screaming. Some people reported they had seen the man masturbating, Brown told msnbc.com.

The man was detained by officers and then taken to a local medical facility for evaluation and treatment, Brown told msnbc.com.

Russell is one of the founders responsible for the "KONY 2012" video that went viral last week. He is described on the organization's website as a co-founder and "our grand storyteller and dreamer." Russell is also described as a Christian and father to two children who wants to have nine more children with his wife he calls his "best friend for over 23 years."

The video of alleged child atrocities by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has been viewed more than 100 million times on the Internet. The 30-minute YouTube film aims to wake up the world to atrocities committed by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight.

Invisible Children tapped 12 influential policy makers and 20 celebrities with popular Twitter accounts, including Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, to spread the video.

The phenomenal success of the video, including the savvy media campaign with tweets about Kony, has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but has suffered some criticism including that it oversimplified a long-standing human rights crisis.

In an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Jason Russell discusses the Invisible Children campaign.

Russell, who narrates the video with a personal story that juxtaposes shots of his young son in San Diego with the hopelessness of Ugandan children, told Reuters last week the video was only meant as a kick-starter to a complicated issue.

"It definitely oversimplifies the issue. This video is not the answer, it's just the gateway into the conversation. And we made it quick and oversimplified on purpose," he said. "We are proud that it is simple. We like that. And we want you to keep investigating, we want you to read the history."

NBCSanDiego.com, NBC News and Reuters contributed to this story.

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