A D.C. man on fire at the National Mall Friday may not have acted alone in his terrifying act. Yesterday, it was reported that the man deliberately ignited himself on fire in front of dozens of witnesses at Washington’s National Mall, causing visitors and joggers to rush to the man’s aid, extinguishing him with their shirts, says NBC on Oct. 4.
The NY Daily News is now reporting that the man had an accomplice – a deliberate witness who set up a camera and tripod and watched as the man doused himself with gasoline and lit his flesh ablaze. The burned man was airlifted to a local hospital and remains in critical condition today.
The incident occurred yesterday around 4:30 p.m. at D.C.’s National Mall, near the National Gallery of Art, which has been closed since Monday due to the continuing government shutdown. On the lawn near 7th Street and Jefferson Drive, the unidentified black man stripped of his clothes, poured gasoline on himself and ignited his body.
Authorities are now looking into the incident and are questioning the man’s motives. Incredulously, investigators said the man was thanking witnesses who came to his aid to extinguish him.
A witness to the incident, Katy Scheflen, a furloughed civil rights attorney in the Justice Department, was near the scene when she said stopped after seeing “a guy with a tripod set up.”
Scheflen said she saw someone setting up his camera and aiming it towards the man in the center of the lawn.
“At that point we didn't know what was going, maybe it was some sort of stage protest,” Scheflen said. “And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames,” she said, describing the sickening sound of seeing the man self-ignite with a “whoosh.”
“It's very shocking,” she said. “It's horrifying. Literally watching this guy go up in flames. There was not really anything anybody could do.”
Scheflen said seeing the mounted camera aimed at the unidentified man was a giveaway that the incident was planned.
“He was aware something was about to happen. Otherwise he was filming nothing but a guy standing there,” Scheflen said. “It was obviously an intentional act. Somebody has a video of the whole thing.”
Visitors to the National Mall were the first to respond, and actually used their shirts and other articles of clothing to pat the flames out on the man.
“I was crossing the street and didn't see him pour the gas or light the match, but saw the flames move up from the middle of his body to his arms,” eyewitness Vanessa Sink, a D.C. resident, reported. “The guy on fire collapsed after a few steps that looked like flailing dancing, and a runner raced over to him. He tried to knock him over to roll him around, but it seemed he couldn't get close because of the flames.”
The incident occurred just a few blocks from where a woman attempted to ram White House barriers and was shot dead Thursday by Capitol Police, after leading officers on a car chase through the Capitol.