How Police Saved a Man Who Set Himself on Fire Inside Pennsylvania Starbucks

It should have been a quiet Saturday morning inside an Abington, Pennsylvania, Starbucks.

Instead, police officers were called to subdue a man who had slit his own throat and wrists before attempting to set himself on fire.

The nightmare scenario unfolded in May, according to the Abington Police Department. A man who police said was high on methamphetamine doused himself in paint thinner and threatened to burn the coffee shop to the ground.

U.S. & World

Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.

Murder Case Against Ex-Cop in Floyd's Death Goes to the Jury

EXPLAINER: What Are Charges Against Chauvin in Floyd Death?

"He had a van set on fire before running into the Starbucks," Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy said.

Inside, the man shouted that he would kill himself as customers quickly shuffled towards the exit.

"This was a very fluid situation where decisions had to be made on scene," Malloy said. 

Several officers quietly slipped into the kitchen while others tried to calm him down. The idea was simple: corral the man near the kitchen and prevent him from lighting anything on fire. 

"He was completely out of his mind," Malloy said. "He had no regard for his own safety, no regard for the safety of the officers and, I think, he was intent on burning that Starbucks down."

As police attempted to "take him down," the man lit himself on fire. Officers shot him with a non-lethal bean bag and used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. They also treated his wounds and prevented the fire from spreading to the rest of the shop.

The whole ordeal, which unfolded in mere minutes, was caught on officers' body cameras.

"We see instances of officers not getting it right, but ... I couldn't be prouder of what they did here," Malloy said. "They put themselves at risk in order to save his life."

Contact Us