UPDATE: The man police responded to yesterday who set himself on fire at the National Mall has died of his injuries. He had been airlifted by helicopter to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he received medical attention. The man was still breathing when he was removed from the scene yesterday afternoon shortly after 4:30pm. The man is still considered anonymous, with no clues to his identity or motive, and authorities indicated they will need to use dental records to attempt identification.
On Friday afternoon, Washington DC police responded to reports of a man who seems to have set himself on fire at the National Mall.
An open-air national park, the National Mall is the area between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial, and police replied to a call there about a man pouring a can of gasoline over his head and setting himself aflame. Eyewitness accounts indicate the man is now being airlifted to the hospital via emergency helicopter.
Standing alone at the center of the Mall, near the intersection of Seventh Street and Madison Drive, the man lifted a red gas can and poured it over his head, witnesses say, before igniting himself.
Witness accounts also say the man was extinguished by passersby. One witness described nearby joggers removing their t-shirts and using them the smother the flames as best they could. The man was clearly alive while was flames continued to spread.
The capitol police arrived at the scene and had the man medevaced. Police statements indicate the man was still conscious and breathing when he was removed from the scene.
This man on fire at the National Mall is the second incident police in Washington DC have responded to near the Capitol Building in as many days. On Thursday, a possibly schizophrenic woman in a car, now identified as Miriam Carey of Stamford, CT, attempted to breach a gate at the White House and backed into a police cruiser. Carey then led authorities on a chase before being shot to death by police and secret service right next to the capitol. The encounter took place while Carey had her infant daughter in the vehicle. Today, as then, these emergency responses involved personnel performing dangerous duty while working unpaid, due to a Republican-led shutdown of the federal government that has now entered its fourth day.
Witnesses at the scene reported the man said “nothing intelligible” before igniting himself, nor was he carrying any signs or indications of motive.
Other reports say the man thanked those who helped him afterwards. One woman said that the man’s “face and arms were charred” by the flames, and that the nearby ground was ignited as well.
Police say the helicopter transported the man to Washington Hospital Center, but there have been no updates on the man’s condition, except clarifications that he was alive and breathing when he was airlifted. Authorities had not yet even confirmed that the man started the fire himself. Timothy J. Wilson, a spokesman for the DC fire department, told the Washington Post, “No indication on our end of what caused the fire; the only thing we can pretty much comment on is we were dispatched to the call and responded to it. So how it started, don’t know.”
Witnesses also reported a yellow tarp with the man’s red gas can, police kicking over a second object that was on fire, and a massive police response that swarmed that area of the National Mall.
It is unknown if these two incidents have anything to do with the worries and economic difficulties created by the economic shutdown, but the fact that emergency employees are working without pay was underlined today at the National Mall as the DC police responded to the man on fire.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing