Man sets himself on fire at New York courthouse

US News

A Florida man set himself on fire Friday outside of the New York courthouse where a jury was being picked for the criminal hush money trial of former President Donald Trump.

The man, identified by police as Max Azzarello, was taken to the Cornell Burn Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he was in very critical condition and not expected to survive.

“His condition is not good, but of a right now he’s still alive,” a police official said of Azzarello, a St. Augustine resident who is in his mid-30s.

Azzarello ignited himself in an area across from Manhattan Supreme Court, which is cordoned off for protestors.

Police said he walked into the park area, opened a bookbag, and threw paper pamphlets onto the ground before pulling out a canister and pouring liquid that is suspected of being an accelerant, and then set himself on fire.

Ed Quinn, a freelance photojournalist who lives in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, said he was facing the courthouse when “I heard someone scream, ‘He’s going to light himself on fire.’ “

“I see him dumping gasoline on his face, very deliberately,” Quinn said, according to NBC News. “He had grey t-shirt on. It soaked his face. It soaked his shirt. Boom, he went up.”

“Women were begging, screaming, put it out, put him out,” according to Quinn, who said it took about a minute before police arrived.

Flames from the fire reached 20 feet into the air before police were able to put out the fire using a large extinguisher after a smaller extinguisher was unable to do the job, video showed.

Azzarello’s motives were unknown but papers containing conspiracy theories were found around him.

“We do not believe he was targeting any particular person or any particular group,” another police official told reporters.

While Azzarello’s LinkedIn profile says he is currently a self-employed “research investigator,” it shows he previously held roles for a range of organizations, including the nonprofit advocacy group Strong Towns.

Charles Marohn, president of Strong Towns, confirmed in a call with CNBC that Azzarello worked for the group from early 2017 until August 2018. His work included helping set up the nonprofit’s Salesforce account.

“Today just makes me very sad,” Marohn said. “I hope he gets the help he needs.”

The organization is entirely remote, Marohn said, so he only saw Azzarello in person once or twice. They communicated mostly over email and Slack.

Asked if Azzarello seemed normal or well-adjusted at that time, Marohn said he “can’t say one way or the other, really.”

“To find out that it’s someone you know … I hope anyone who’s human in that instance would just feel sad,” Marohn said. “He’s a human being, he deserves our compassion.”

Azzarello in April 2023 filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court accusing a large number of defendants, including the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, various cryptocurrency exchanges and companies, financial firms, New York University, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Mark Cuban of participating in a wide-ranging, decades-long fraudulent scheme that had caused Azzarello significant financial and psychological harm.

Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed the lawsuit in October after Azzarello, who was representing himself, failed to respond to an order directing him to explain why the complaint should not be dismissed for lack of legal standing and lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The last jury spots were being filled around the time the fire occurred. Trump was inside the courthouse at the time.

Officials told people inside the courtroom, including Trump, that they were free to leave the building, which is located in lower Manhattan, close to a federal courthouse, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Judge Juan Merchan had been scheduled to hold a hearing Friday afternoon on the admissibility of past conduct by Trump as evidence at the trial.

The area where the incident took place has been filled this week with journalists, protesters, counter-protesters and other passersby seeking a glimpse of the historic trial site.

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams was spotted just outside the building.

Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for Trump’s presidential campaign, in a statement Friday said, “Not knowing the motivations behind this sickening situation, it’s difficult to make any definitive remarks, other than to say we are thankful that to the best of our present knowledge, nobody other than the individual in question was hurt.”

“We also extend our condolences to the traumatized witnesses on the scene and offer our deepest gratitude to the great first responders of the City of New York for their actions,” Leavitt said. “Today is more proof that our nation is in deep trouble and that perhaps more than ever, we all must work to Make America Great Again.”

Read original source here.

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