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Bronx Zoo jumper faces trespassing charge

Left, ticket booths are empty and the gates

Left, ticket booths are empty and the gates are chained shut on Sept. 21, 2012 at an entrance to the Bronx Zoo after a visitor who jumped into a tiger enclosure was mauled there. Right, an undated Facebook image of the mauling victim David Villalobos, 25, of Mahopac. Photo Credit: AP; Facebook

New York City police intend to arrest a man who told them he wanted to "be one with the tiger" that mauled him at the Bronx Zoo on Friday.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Saturday that David Villalobos, 25, of Mahopac in Putnam County, told investigators he deliberately leaped into the exhibit occupied by a 400-pound Siberian tiger.

Villalobos admitted to police that he'd made a conscious decision to jump from an elevated monorail, but his motives were unclear.

During an interview Saturday at the hospital, Villalobos told detectives "his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger," Browne said.

Villalobos was charged Saturday night with criminal trespassing.

He was riding the Wild Asia Monorail shortly after 3 p.m. Friday when he jumped from a height of about 20 feet, clearing the exhibit's fence, zoo officials said.

He underwent surgery at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx on Friday night. Villalobos, who was bitten numerous times and broke his arm and ankle in the fall, was in stable condition Saturday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Family members declined to comment Saturday.

Longtime neighbor Susan Panzarino described the Villalobos family as "in a state of shock."

"I watched him grow up. He always seemed fine to me," she said.

On Thursday, Villalobos, whom police described as "an emotionally disturbed man," posted a photo of a tiger licking a cub with the comment "Nice." Another posting: the dictionary definition of insanity with a video of The Doors song "People Are Strange."

His last status update was on Friday: A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Love and you shall be loved."

After he jumped into the exhibit Friday, Villalobos was alone with a male tiger named Bashuta for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by zoo employees, who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away, zoo director Jim Breheny said.

He doesn't believe the tiger intended to kill the intruder.

"Tigers are extremely capable predators, and what they typically do is grab a prey animal by the back of the neck and it's over very quickly," Breheny said.

Villalobos is a 2006 graduate of Mahopac High School and played on the football team there, according to records.

Neighbor Chris Panzarino described Villalobos as "a very good guy" who "would help you with anything."

Paul Giarraputo, who went to Mahopac High School with Villalobos, described his former classmate as a spiritual man who posted strange updates on Facebook and listed "the world of animals" among his interests in his profile on the social networking site.

Another neighbor, Annie Albohn, said she has known Villalobos and his family for years. "He's a nice kid, that's all I can say," she said. "His parents are wonderful people."

Breheny said the zoo has no plans to put the tiger down, and said he did not fault the animal for its natural defense instinct.

With The Associated Press

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