A man has set himself on fire in the middle of Washington’s National Mall in the vicinity of federal museums closed by the government shutdown, suffering “life threatening injuries.”
DC Fire Department spokesman Tim Wilson said on Friday the unidentified man was flown to a hospital by helicopter.
Katy Scheflen, a furloughed civil rights attorney in the Justice Department, says she was walking along the Mall when she saw a man near him pick up a red can of gasoline and empty its contents on his head before setting himself ablaze.
“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.”
“I saw like a spark,” she said. “Then he just went completely up in flames.”
Some joggers took off their shirts and tried to put off the flames, she added.
Nicole Didyk, who was jogging past, told the Washington Post that the man was facing Capitol Hill when he set himself alight at Seventh Street and Jefferson Drive, near the Air and Space Museum.
She said the man’s “face and arms were charred” and the ground around him was on fire.
A camera had been set up there on a tripod, according to Scheflen.
“It was obviously an intentional act,” she said. “Somebody has a video of the whole thing.”
US Park Police closed an area of the mall 7th Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.
Washington DC police spokeswoman said the man was “conscious and breathing” when firefighters arrived.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center later tweeted that the man was taken there but did not post any updates on his condition.
The violent crimes branch of DC police department has been dispatched to investigate the scene.
The National Mall is closed due to a government shutdown.
As the federal government has been shut down for four days, Capitol Hill, the heart of United States’ political center, has seen a number of violent incidents in the past few days.
A shooting occurred outside the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday. A woman from Connecticut was shot to death by police after a high-speed chase.
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) was assaulted by an upset individual Wednesday evening while walking to the Capitol for votes.
“A random individual, unknown to the congressman, began screaming at him and grabbed his arm,” the congressman’s spokeswoman, Cassie Smedile, said in a statement.