Man dies after setting himself on fire near courthouse where Donald Trump is on trial: NYPD

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Man dies after setting himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse: NYPD
Police say 37-year-old Max Azzarello of Florida has died after setting himself on fire outside the courthouse where Donald Trump is on trial on Friday.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A man has died from his injuries after setting himself on fire using an accelerant on Friday near the New York City courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial, according to police.

Police identified the man as 37-year-old Max Azzarello of Saint Augustine, Florida. They say he arrived in New York earlier this week.

According to the NYPD, the incident took place Friday afternoon at Collect Pond Park near the Lower Manhattan courthouse where Trump's hush money trial is taking place.

Police say Azzarello walked into the park, threw pamphlets into the air, doused himself with a flammable liquid and then lit himself on fire.

Eyewitness News talked to a witness who said the man silently doused himself with what appeared to be gasoline. The NYPD later said the accelerant appeared to be an alcohol-based cleaning solution.

"He got himself soaking wet and then pulled out a lighter," the witness said. "It reminded me of what happened in the Vietnam war. I've seen videos of those things."

Julie Berman said the man told her to "get away, get far away," just as he was about to light himself on fire.

Police officers ran from all directions to help. A detective tried to smother the flames with his coat.

Someone then came with a fire extinguisher to get it out. First responders rushed Azzarello to New-York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in very critical condition.

Several officers suffered minor injuries.

The pamphlets appear to be conspiracy theory in nature, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny. Detectives are investigating his movements since arrival in New York

Police said they are reviewing the man's Substack page, with the heading: "I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial."

Azzarello described himself as an "investigative researcher" and explains in 2,648 words his reasons for setting himself ablaze.

UNC-Chapel Hill confirmed that he earned a BA in public policy and Anthropology in 2009.

It appeared Azzarello wasn't targeting any particular person or group, officials said, describing him as a "conspiracy theorist."

It appears he acted alone, officials said.

The NYPD says it does not believe the incident has anything to do with Trump's trial, but did say it raised concerns over the security in the area.

"We're very concerned," Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said. He said the NYPD will review security protocol because of the "gravity of the event going on," referring to the Trump trial.

NYPD Bomb Squad was seen sweeping the area out of an abundance of caution.

Witnesses say Azzarello had been seen in the park for several days this week before the incident on Friday.

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