Man in critical condition after setting himself on fire near NYC courthouse

Click to play video: 'Man sets himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse in New York'
Man sets himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse in New York
WATCH: A Florida man was rushed to a burn unit in New York City after setting himself on fire in a public park on Friday afternoon, outside of the courthouse where former U.S. president Donald Trump’s hush-money trial was taking place. Amid the chaos, three NYPD officers and one court officer sustained minor injuries from their exposure to fire. They are in stable condition. An investigation into the incident is ongoing – Apr 19, 2024

A man set himself on fire on Friday outside the New York courthouse where Donald Trump’s historic hush-money trial was taking place, but he did not appear to have been targeting Trump, officials said.

The man burned for several minutes in full view of television cameras that were set up outside the courthouse, where the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president is being held.

Officials said the man survived. “The victim is in critical condition but is alive and intubated,” said New York Fire Department Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

Witnesses said the man pulled pamphlets out of a backpack and threw them in the air before he doused himself with a liquid and set himself on fire. One of those pamphlets, titled “The True History of the World (Haunted Carnival Edition),” included references to “evil billionaires” but portions that were visible to a Reuters witness did not mention Trump.

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Officials said the man, who they said lived until recently in St. Augustine, Florida, did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

“Right now we are labeling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist and we are going from there,” Tarrik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the New York Police Department, said at a news conference.

New York Police officers inspect a backpack left at the scene where a man lit himself on fire in a park outside Manhattan criminal court, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York. Emergency crews rushed away a person on a stretcher after fire was extinguished outside the Manhattan courthouse where jury selection was taking place in former President Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer).

Witnesses on the scene said they were disturbed by the incident.

“It’s hard to even process in your brain,” one witness, who declined to give his name, told Reuters.

A smell of smoke lingered in the plaza shortly after the incident, according to a Reuters witness, and a police officer sprayed a fire extinguisher on the ground. A smoldering backpack and a gas can were visible.

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The downtown Manhattan courthouse, heavily guarded by police, drew a throng of protesters and onlookers on Monday, the trial’s first day, though crowds have dwindled since then.

Jury selection completed

The shocking development came shortly after jury selection for the trial was completed, clearing the way for prosecutors and defense attorneys to make opening statements next week in a case stemming from hush money paid to a porn star.

The 12 jurors, along with six alternates, will consider evidence in a first-ever trial to determine whether a former U.S. president is guilty of breaking the law.

Click to play video: 'Historic Trump hush money criminal trial begins in New York'
Historic Trump hush money criminal trial begins in New York

The jury consists of seven men and five women, mostly employed in white-collar professions: two corporate lawyers, a software engineer, a speech therapist and an English teacher. Most are not native New Yorkers, hailing from across the United States and countries like Ireland and Lebanon.

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Trump is accused of covering up a $130,000 payment his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says they had a decade earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and denies any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in three other criminal cases as well, but this is the only one certain to go to trial ahead of theNov. 5 election, when the Republican politician aims to again take on Democratic President Joe Biden.

A conviction would not bar him from office.

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