WASHINGTON — A man who apparently set himself on fire on the National Mall has died from his injuries, police said Saturday, and his motive remains a mystery.
The man’s identity is still unknown, said Araz Alali, a spokesman for the District of Columbia police. Investigators will use DNA and dental records to try to identify the body.
He had “grave burns encircling most of his body,” Alali said.
Witnesses said the man poured a can of gasoline or other flammable material over himself before he apparently set himself ablaze about 4:30 p.m. Friday on a grassy area outside the National Air and Space Museum.
Joggers and other bystanders on the Mall rushed to his aid.
District resident Nicole Didyk said she saw four or five men use their shirts to try to beat out flames that engulfed the man’s body and that set nearby grass on fire.
Didyk said one of the men told her the man had “saluted the Capitol and then lit himself on fire.” One of the men also told Didyk that the man said, “Thank you” after the flames were extinguished.
The man was rushed by helicopter to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he died about 9 p.m. Friday.
Alali could not provide details about any potential evidence found near the man. Some reports have suggested he may have tried to film his immolation.
The incident further unnerved a city on edge due to the Sept. 16 mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, and the high-speed car chase near the Capitol on Thursday that ended when police shot and killed the driver, an unarmed woman.