Fla. Man ID’d as Person Set Ablaze Outside Trump Court

A man set himself on fire Friday in a park outside the court where former President Donald Trump is standing trial in Manhattan, with a witness describing the person throwing pamphlets before officers rushed to extinguish the flames.

The man was identified as Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Florida, who arrived in New York from the Sunshine State last week, and his family had been unaware he had traveled out of state, police said, according to the New York Post.

Police said Azzarello was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

Burning clothes were strewn in the park, which was locked down by authorities, while ambulances lined up on standby, an Agence Frace-Presse correspondent at the scene saw, describing a strong smell of burning chemicals.

Video seemingly taken by witnesses and posted on social media showed a person standing engulfed in flames, then falling to the ground as police and plainclothes officers rushed to beat out the blaze.

One patrolman used a small fire extinguisher to control the blaze.

Moments before he doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze, Azzarello tossed a stack of pamphlets into the air, which included links to a Substack newsletter apparently authored by the self-immolator called “The Ponzi Papers,” the Post reported.

At the top of the site is an article with the headline “I have set myself on fire outside of the trump Trial,” followed by a rambling manifesto riddled with conspiracy theories on everything from cryptocurrency and Hollywood actors to COVID-19 and former President Bill Clinton.

“My name is Max Azzarello, and I am an investigative researcher who has set himself on fire outside of the Trump trial in Manhattan,” the nearly 2,700-word posting began, the Post reported.

“This extreme act of protest is to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery: We are victims of a totalitarian con, and our own government (along with many of their allies) is about to hit us with an apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

TV reporters described the incident unfolding moments after the full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was selected for the trial of the former president, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records to cover up a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

It appeared hearings in the case would resume after lunch despite the incident, but later than usual.

“A male did light himself on fire outside of the Supreme Courthouse. We’re still gathering details from the field,” said a New York Police Department spokesman, who gave no motive for the man’s action.

In February, a U.S. airman set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., and subsequently died, protesting the war in Gaza.

A New York fire department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about Friday’s incident, but media reported the man had been taken away for medical treatment.

The self-immolation happened in a park opposite the 100 Centre Street courthouse, which has been used by authorities to corral pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters, as well as some members of the media.

The park, which is close to several courthouses and other buildings, is a popular lunch spot and was cordoned off following the incident.

Trump’s criminal trial, the first of a former president, is being conducted amid tight security in a 15th-floor courtroom swarming with Secret Service officers, as well as court police.

© AFP 2024