NJ Man Sets Himself on Fire in DC

By NBC10.com staff and Wire Reports
|  Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013  |  Updated 9:14 AM EDT
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Park Police say a man may have doused himself in gas and set himself on fire Friday afternoon on the National Mall. He is listed in critical condition at a D.C. hospital.

Park Police say a man may have doused himself in gas and set himself on fire Friday afternoon on the National Mall. He is listed in critical condition at a D.C. hospital.

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Officials say the man who died after lighting himself on fire on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. was from the Philadelphia region.

On Friday, shortly after 4:20 p.m., police responded to a report of a man suffering from burns throughout his body at the corner of Jefferson Drive and 7th Street SW, near the Air and Space Museum.

Witnesses told NBC Washington's Mark Segraves they saw a man pouring gasoline on himself, then possibly setting himself on fire. Several joggers nearby ripped their shirts off in an attempt to subdue the flames.

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The man, identified as 64-year-old John Constantino of Mt. Laurel, N.J., was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he died Friday night. Officials confirmed that he set himself on fire.

Police are investigating the man's possible motives. Lt. Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police said she was not aware that he had carried any signs with him or had articulated a cause.

Constantino family attorney Jeffrey Cox says the family believes he wasn't making a political statement.

They described Constantino as a "loving father and husband" and asked for privacy.

One witness, Katy Scheflen, said she did not hear the man say anything intelligible before he set himself on fire. But she said she did notice that another man with a tripod was standing nearby and had disappeared by the time the police had arrived. It was not immediately clear whether a recording exists.

"He appeared to be waiting for something to happen. After it happened, he was gone," Scheflen, a Justice Department lawyer, said Saturday of the man with the tripod.

"I can't say what the connection was between them or whether there was a connection," she added.

The fire occurred in a city with jangled nerves. The incident came only a day after Capitol Police shot and killed an unarmed woman following a high-speed chase that started outside the White House, where she had tried to ram a gate with her car, and ended near the Capitol.

Last month, a man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 people.

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