• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Man dies after setting himself on fire outside Donald Trump trial in New York

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A man who set himself on fire outside the courthouse in New York where former president Donald Trump is on trial has died.

Maxwell Azzarello was “declared deceased by hospital staff”, police told NBC News in a phone call early on Saturday.

No specific time of death was given.

Bystanders were left horrified after Mr Azzarello was seen lying on the ground in flames outside the Manhattan courthouse where jury selection was happening.

CNN reporters said they saw a man engulfed in flames for more than three minutes.

“I see a totally charred human being,” one of them said on air.

Bystanders rushed over to douse him with a fire extinguisher and tried to bat the flames away.

Emergency crews took Mr Azzarello away on a stretcher – he is now in critical condition, the NYPD said.

The force spoke to reporters in a press conference a few hours after the incident.

They named Mr Azzarello and revealed he is 37 years old, from St Augustine in Florida.

His family did not know he had travelled to New York, where he went to the park opposite the court and threw pamphlets in the air before dousing himself with liquid and setting himself alight.

Police said he was not known to them before Friday.

They mentioned that he had made several social media posts “in regard to this event” but did not expand further.

Reuters quoted a witness who said they saw a piece of a pamphlet which referred to “evil billionaires” and called on people to “expose this corruption”.

The NYPD also said they do not believe there is currently any public safety threat.

Just minutes before this violence, a full jury of 12 people and six alternatives had been selected in the hush money case, drawing the first criminal trial of a former US president a step closer to opening statements.

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.

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.

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 the Nov. 5 election, when the Republican politician aims to again take on Democratic President Joe Biden.

A conviction would not bar him from office.