Man dies after setting himself on fire outside Trump's Manhattan hush money hearing

  • By Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News

video title, Someone shouts 'don't do it' before man sets himself on fire – BBC reporter

A man who set himself on fire outside a Manhattan courthouse in the hush-money trial of former President Donald Trump has died.

Maxwell Azzarello, 37, doused himself in a liquid before throwing conspiracy-theory pamphlets into the air.

This comes as the jury selection for Mr Trump's trial is over.

He was taken to hospital in critical condition on Friday, where he later died, CBS News – the BBC's US partner – confirmed.

Mr Trump was in the building to attend jury selection, where he had a security detail, but the former president left during the incident.

New York City police said hospital staff pronounced Mr Azzarello dead early Saturday morning, NBC reported.

Court security was not breached in Friday's incident, emergency officials said. The trial, which concluded alternate jury selection, resumed later in the afternoon. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday.

Investigators said they received a 911 call at around 13:30 local time (18:30 BMT).

They identified him as Maxwell Azzarello, 37, who had arrived in New York from his home in Florida last week. He had no criminal record in New York, and his family in Florida had no idea he had moved to the city.

New York Police Chief Jeffrey Matre said Mr Azzarello was “wandering around” the park before carrying a bag of flammable liquid and leaflets.

image caption, Maxwell Azzarello holds a sign outside a Manhattan courthouse Thursday

Chief Madre said the leaflets were “based on propaganda”, adding that they were related to “conspiracy theory”.

There was a massive police presence outside the courthouse due to the investigation, and officers quickly ran into the park to demand a fire extinguisher. Mr Azzarello was carried away on a stretcher, his body badly burned. Police said he was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition.

Witness Julie Berman told reporters: “It was hot and it didn't make a lot of sense. The whole thing happened so fast… It took me 20 seconds to figure out what was going on.”

NYPD investigators later saw Mr Azzarello picking up scattered leaflets before setting himself on fire. They considered the area safe.

Investigators are still interviewing witnesses and said he did not appear to say anything before setting himself on fire.

Three NYPD officers and a court official suffered minor injuries as they helped put out the fire.

Officials said they were reviewing the defense outside of court.

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