Man dies after setting himself on fire outside New York Trump trial

Manhattan Criminal Court had just selected full jury and alternates for hush-money trial

The scene at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City after a man set himself on fire. AFP
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A man set himself on fire on Friday outside the New York City courthouse where the Donald Trump hush-money trial is taking place.

The New York Police Department told The National that police had “responded to a 911 call to aid a person in the vicinity of 80 Centre Street".

The man was transported to a local hospital's burn centre, but later died of his injuries.

Police identified the deceased man as Maxwell Azzarello, who was in his late 30s and from the state of Florida.

"Right now we are labelling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there," Tarik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the Police Department, said at a news conference.

NYPD reported that four officers suffered minor injuries when responding to the fire. There is an ongoing investigation into the incident, police added.

CNN was reporting live from outside the courtroom when the incident occurred, with anchor Laura Coates describing a man “fully ablaze” and “engulfed in flames” in the park across the street from the courthouse.

Footage shared on X showed a person on the ground covered in flames as several police officers rushed to the scene and sprayed him with fire extinguishers.

“I can smell the burning of some sort of flesh, I can smell the burning of some sort of agent … as well as an accelerant to put out that fire,” Coates said.

Mr Azzarello had been seen throwing pamphlets containing information about anti-government conspiracy theories before setting himself on fire with an alcohol-based liquid accelerant, police said.

Trump's 'hush money' trial begins in New York

Trump's 'hush money' trial begins in New York

The area around the Manhattan District Court is under heightened security, with local law enforcement and Secret Service agents deployed, as the former US president is required to be present for the historic legal proceedings.

Mr Trump is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up potential scandals with three people, including adult film star Stormy Daniels who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump.

The Republican presidential candidate denies the affair, and has asserted he is not guilty to the criminal charges.

Minutes before the self-immolation, the trial in the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse completed choosing a full jury of 12 members and six alternates.

Mr Trump's legal team later failed at an attempt to delay the trial.

"We're going to have opening statements on Monday morning," Judge Juan Merchan said, according to reporters in the courtroom. "This trial is starting."

Updated: April 20, 2024, 12:05 PM