What has already been a strange and scary work week in the nation’s capital, came to a close with a shocking incident on the National Mall: For reasons we don’t yet know, witnesses say a man doused himself with gasoline and then set himself on fire.
D.C. fire department spokesman Tim Wilson tells the AP the man suffered life-threatening injures. The wire service reports:
“He was standing by himself at Seventh Street and Madison Drive, in the center portion of the Mall, when he emptied the contents of a red gas can on himself and set himself on fire moments later, said Katy Scheflen, who witnessed it as she walked through the Mall.
“She said passing joggers took off their shirts in an effort to help douse the flames, and the man was clearly alive as the flames spread. A police department spokesman said he was conscious and breathing at the scene. MedStar Washington Hospital Center tweeted that the man was taken there but had no condition update.”
Images posted on social media sites showed a rescue helicopter landing on the lawn, the iconic Washington Memorial in the background. They showed police descending upon the scene on a clear, sunny day in Washington with the Capitol building in full view.
Of course, the week started with an impasse between the House and Senate that led to a partial shut down of the federal government, the first in nearly two decades. Then a high-speed car chase through the monumental core of the city forced the Capitol and White House on lockdown and left a suspect dead and two officers injured.
Then at about 4:20 p.m. today, this news. The Washington Post quotes Meghan Van Heertum, who was nearby, saying the man was lying on the ground in the middle of the Mall.
“The flames were only a couple of feet off the ground,” the Post reports. “She did not see flames coming from the man, but the air ‘smelled strongly of burning flesh.'”