Friends of accused naked BART attacker say he needs mental health services

June 18, 2013 7:50:58 PM PDT
The naked man seen attacking people at a San Francisco BART station in a video that went viral had his first day in court Tuesday. Yeiner Perez Garizabalo's friends say he needs mental health services, not jail time.

Perez Garizabalo, 24, sat quietly listening to a Spanish interpreter explain the charges against him. He's the naked acrobat seen on video (WARNING: Graphic/NSFW) attacking passengers at the 16th Mission BART station last month.

"I spoke to him on the phone a couple of times; he's been very, very depressed and crying," friend Ben Goldstein said.

Goldstein performed with Perez Garizabalo as part of a troupe called Clown Snot Bombs. He says his friend has no memory of what happened at BART on May 10, but began showing signs of distress earlier that same day during rehearsal for an evening performance.

"His face went blank, his eyes went really strange," Goldstein said. "We talked to him, he didn't respond to us."

In court Tuesday, the native of Colombia quietly answered to the formal charges against him. He pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of false imprisonment and five misdemeanors, including one count of sexual battery. He's being held in the psychiatric unit of the county jail.

His friends say it was becoming clear the fellow performer they called Jei needed help.

"The day before Jei went out to BART, he started becoming violent," friend Faeble Kievman said.

District Attorney George Gascon says the suspect's mental health will be evaluated, but he considers him a safety risk.

"We are assessing what are all the factors that were involved here, but I have a personal obligation to protect the safety of this community," Gascon said.

The criminal case is on a parallel track with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, which has begun deportation proceedings, saying the suspect overstayed his visitor's visa.

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