Man who jumped into zoo tiger pen appears in court

June 13, 2013 5:09:24 AM PDT
The man who jumped into a tiger den at the Bronx Zoo because he wanted to be one with the animal appeared in court Tuesday.

David Villalobos, who was mauled by a 400-pound tiger before being rescued, pleaded not guilty to trespassing charges after the incident last September.

He was released on his own recognizance, and his next court appearance is scheduled for March 12.

The 25-year-old, of Mahopac, cleared a 16-foot-high fence and was attacked and dragged by a Siberian tiger named Bashuta.

Villalobos suffered bites on his arms, legs, shoulders and back. He also had a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis and a collapsed lung.

In the complaint, police Sgt. Peter Monopoli says that when Villalobos was asked why he jumped, he said, "Everyone makes choices and we have our reasons in life why we do things."

He told another investigator, "I was testing my natural fear, you would not understand," the complaint says. "It is a spiritual thing, I wanted to be at one with the tiger."

Villalobos was alone with the tiger for about 10 minutes before he was rescued by workers who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away.

Zoo director Jim Breheny said at the time: "The tiger did nothing wrong. ... somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves." Breheny would not comment Friday on whether the tiger was still at the zoo or whether any safety procedures had been changed since the attack.

Villalobos' attorney, Corey Sokoler, would not comment directly on the case but described his client as "a very intelligent young man."

"He knows and I know this is a very interesting human interest story and people have a lot of questions," Sokoler said.

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