A man in D.C. set himself on fire on the National Mall on Friday and suffered life-threatening injuries, although the reason for the self-immolation wasn't immediately clear.
The incident, which happened on a national gathering place, came just a day after the city was rattled by a high-speed chase that ended with a woman being shot by police, and less than a month after a mass shooting at the Navy Yard.
The man on the Mall was airlifted to the hospital, said District of Columbia fire department spokesman Tim Wilson, according to The Associated Press.
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He was standing by himself in the center portion of the Mall when he emptied the contents of a red gasoline can on himself and set himself on fire moments later, said Katy Scheflen, who witnessed it as she walked across the area. Police say they responded around 4:20 p.m. Friday.
Scheflen said passing joggers took off their shirts in an effort to help douse the flames, and the man was clearly alive as the fire spread. A police department spokesman said he was conscious and breathing at the scene. MedStar Washington Hospital Center tweeted that the man was taken there but had no condition update.
"There was not a lot people could do because it was a gasoline fire," Scheflen said.
She said he may have said something before he acted "but it was nothing intelligible." She said she did not see him holding any signs before he set himself ablaze.
"I'm not aware of any signage or any articulation of any causes," said Lt. Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police, which is investigating along with the D.C. police department.
The D.C. police department has dispatched its violent crimes branch, which responds to cases in which a person suffers serious injury.
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