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Bronx Zoo mauling: Man wanted to be 'one with the tiger'

David Villalobos, 25, who jumped 17 feet into the tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo to be "one with tiger," will be charged with criminal trespassing. He said he managed to pet the tiger before the big cat bit him. NBC's Veronica De La Cruz reports.

NEW YORK -- The man who jumped out of the Bronx Zoo's monorail into the tiger exhibit was charged with trespass Saturday, 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.

Villalobos was charged Saturday with third-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, and another lesser charge of trespass. He was issued a desk appearance ticket with a future court date for arraignment.


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.

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

"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,'" Browne said.

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According to a law enforcement official, Villalobos suffered broken ribs, a broken right ankle, which was also mauled by the tiger, a collapsed lung and a broken pelvis. Most of the injuries he suffered were because of the 17-foot fall into the tiger den.

In statements to an NYPD sergeant, Villalobos said the tiger dragged him by his right ankle. He also told the sergeant he was able to pet the animal.

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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.

Villalobos is in stable condition at Jacobi Medical Center.

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