Officials have identified the man who died after setting fire to himself on the National Mall Friday as John Constantino, 64, of Mount Laurel, N.J. After Constantino poured gasoline on his body and ignited it while sitting on the mall Friday afternoon, passersby used their clothing to try to put out the flames. He was eventually airlifted to a hospital, where he died late Friday.
Constantino “had burns so severe that authorities needed to use DNA and dental records to identify him,” the AP reports. “District of Columbia police spokesman Paul Metcalf in an emailed statement confirmed his identity.”
No messages or signs stating a reason for the shocking act were visible on the mall, according to authorities and witnesses. And in a statement released last night, Constantino’s family says that a clear motive may never emerge.
In a statement released through an attorney, the family said of Constantino, “his death was not a political act or statement, but the result of a long battle with mental illness.” That’s according to The Washington Post. The AP received the same statement, which id not specify what that illness might be; in it, his family called Constantino a “loving father and husband.”
The family also said that they “would like to acknowledge the heroism of the paramedics and bystanders who attempted to save his life.”
The incident, which occurred in plain view of the Capitol, followed by one day a car chase that began at the White House and ended at a guardhouse leading to the Capitol. The woman who was shot to death in that episode had also struggled with mental-health issues, her family and other sources said.
As we reported earlier, a woman who saw the self-immolation has told the AP that she saw a man with a tripod near Constantino; she says that he left the scene before police arrived. No recording of the incident has emerged; the woman has said that the men showed no obvious signs of having a connection.