A veteran disgruntled with the Department of Veterans Affairs set himself on fire Tuesday in front of the Georgia State Capitol in downtown Atlanta, according to state police officials.
Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the 58-year-old veteran who served in the Air Force stepped out of a Nissan Sentra and walked towards the state capitol building before setting himself ablaze.
“He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices (and) firecrackers, and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid” before lighting the fireworks, he said.
Witnesses in the area heard several loud explosions before a state trooper quickly extinguished the fire, authorities said.
The veteran, whose name has not been released, suffered burns on 85 to 90 percent of his body and was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment.
NEW on State Capitol emergency: veteran is 58 year old from Mabelton, GA. Burns on 85-90% of his body. Being treated at Grady now. State Patrol says: he’s a Veteran upset with the VA. @wsbtv #breaking pic.twitter.com/TWZbaiTyPs
— Linda Stouffer (@LindaWSB) June 26, 2018
Authorities say there are no other reported injuries, but the Capitol and state judiciary buildings were evacuated as a precaution. Child care workers at a daycare nearby the blast moved the children to a Catholic Church away from the scene out of an abundance of caution, officials said.
Authorities closed the roads around the capitol to investigate potential additional threats. A bomb squad examined the Nissan, and Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officials removed items from the vehicle. The GBI, Atlanta Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were on scene and used K9s and a robot to investigate the vehicle.
Officials say there was a sign in the vehicle’s window containing a phone number, but authorities are warning people not to call the number over fears that it may set off another explosive.
The Atlanta Police Department tweeted that the area has been secured, but the portion of Washington Street between Trinity and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was closed.
UPDATE: The all clear has been given after the APD SWAT Team worked with multiple other agencies to secure the area around the State Capitol. We worked remotely with our robots to check out the scene where a man set himself on fire. pic.twitter.com/Pn4NWbwBTF
— Atlanta Police Dept (@Atlanta_Police) June 26, 2018
A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson told the Washington Post that it could not “comment on the specifics of this Veteran’s case due to patient privacy laws, but the department is ensuring he receives the VA care that he needs.”
Officials say they would release the veteran’s name once family members are notified.