DENVER (AP) — A man was critically injured Thursday when he lit himself on fire after police placed him in handcuffs at a busy downtown Denver park.
The man, whose name and age have not been released, was seen pouring fluid on himself at Civic Center Park, police spokesman Doug Schepman said. Officers trying to take the man into protective custody handcuffed him shortly before he became engulfed in flames.
“It was a matter of seconds,” said Schepman, who did not know if the man was patted down before he was handcuffed.
Police are investigating the incident as an attempted suicide.
Dozens of people passing by saw the scene near a busy intersection and a group of food trucks.
Bridgette Stopher said she saw the man light himself on fire, then start running as a group of people chased him and tried to use their shirts to extinguish the flames.
“He ran all the way around. People were trying to put him out, and then they put him out with a fire extinguisher,” she said. “And when they took off his clothes he was so burnt. … He was still alive, but he was so burnt, everywhere.”
Steve Quiroga, who has been sleeping on the streets since coming to Colorado from California about a week ago, said he gave police his blanket to try to put out the flames.
Quiroga said he was meditating in the park when he heard sirens and saw the man engulfed in flames.
The blanket Quiroga gave to police, as well as a bottle of lighter fluid, were among the pieces of evidence that investigators placed into plastic bags at the edge of the park as people walked by along the police tape strung along the street.
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