Trending Topics

Man sets himself on fire outside NYC courthouse

Man doused himself with a liquid inside a barricaded area across from the Manhattan Criminal Court


(EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts graphic content) Paramedics attend to a person who apparently self-immolated near Manhattan Criminal Court on April 19, 2024, in New York City. First responders extinguished the flames of an unknown person outside of the courthouse where former President Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial.

(Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/TNS)

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A Florida man set himself on fire in a park across from Manhattan Criminal Court Friday where former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial continues, according to a report.

Court officers and cops monitoring the press outside raced over to help put out the fire, which erupted in a penned-off section of Collect Pond Park across the street from the courthouse at about 1:30 p.m.

“I was about 20 to 30 feet from him. I started yelling, ‘This guy’s doing something, he might be doing something!” Fred Gates, who witnessed the fire, told the Daily News. “When he… when the fire (broke out) it was just disbelief,” he said.

“I never saw anything like this.”

Authorities at a press conference identified the man as Max Azzarello, of St. Augustine, Florida. He remains in critical condition at New York Presbyterian-Cornell Hospital.

Azzarello, described by authorities as a “conspiracy theorist,” posted a rambling manifesto just before the blaze began.

“I am an investigative researcher who has set himself on fire outside of the Trump trial in Manhattan,” he wrote. “This extreme act of protest is to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery: We are victims of a totalitarian con, and our own government (along with many of their allies) is about to hit us with an apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

The man, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, had signs made of oaktag in front of him and was handing out fliers when he suddenly threw all the paper in the air, witnesses said.

“(It was a) very scary, active scene,” Politico reporter Emily Ngo wrote as she posted graphic video of the fire on X. “Did not hear him say anything before he dosed himself with a fluid.”

The flames reached about 8 feet high as firefighters and other first responders extinguished the blaze, images from the incident show. After the fire was extinguished, EMS rushed him to a hospital for treatment.

“He was responsive when he was removed, but he is very, very badly burned,” Ngo said.

A 73-year-old man walking through the park heard a clattering of the papers when they hit the ground — then saw something he wished he hadn’t.

“The papers were kind of stiff. That drew my attention,” the man, who identified himself as Dave, said. “I saw him take out a can of liquid and put it over his head.

“He doused himself real good at which point I thought ‘This is going to be awful.’” Dave said, recalling the horrific scene. “He then took out a lighter and lit himself on fire.”

It took first responders “a while” to put out the blaze, Dave said.

“He was fully aflame,” he said. “It was pretty bad. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Word of the self-immolation occurred as prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys finished selecting the final alternate jurors for the hush money trial, which is expected to start on Monday.

No one in the courtroom knew what had happened outside until they took a short break, court officials said.

Gates said the man was quite calm as he took two gas cans out of his backpack.

“(He) put them down on the ground, just slow, calm,” Gates recalled. “Then he took a bunch of fliers out of his backpack, throw them into the air and then he picked up one (can) and dumped it on himself and then he picked up another and dunked the other half of himself and by that time I was running.”

The man set himself on fire as reporters milled around the park, waiting for an update from inside court.

Azzarello remained in critical condition Friday afternoon. A court officer was also rushed to the hospital after he was injured trying to put out the fire.

An investigation into the incident was continuing Friday.

The manifesto released online, which is linked to a QR code on one of the fliers, touched on Ponzi schemes, bank failures, the rise of cryptocurrency, the television show “The Simpsons” and Harvard University, which he called “one of the largest organized crime fronts in history.”

“To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you,” Azzarello wrote about his alleged self-immolation. “But I assure you it is a drop in the bucket compared to what our government intends to inflict.”

Despite this horrific turn of events, the trial was proceeding Friday, Al Baker, a spokesman for New York State Courts said.

“The entire court is impacted by this. The court officers rushed to help aid the man. Everyone who works in this building every day, their heart goes out to this incident. The judge himself has expressed concern for him, but in terms of the timing, and the process that is unchanged, the court proceeding will continue.”

©2024 New York Daily News.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.