Horror as man sets himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York

19 April 2024, 18:57 | Updated: 19 April 2024, 22:22

Paramedics attended to a person who lit themselves on fire near Manhattan Criminal Court
Paramedics attended to a person who lit themselves on fire near Manhattan Criminal Court. Picture: CNN/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

A man has set himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York.

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The man could be seen kneeling with his hands behind his head as horrified onlookers screamed out.

Police identified him as Maxwell Azzarello, in his mid-30s, from St Augustine in Florida.

Azzarello was standing inside the designated protest area for Trump supporters outside the courthouse, the NYPD said.

He doused himself with a liquid at around 1.30pm local time before setting himself alight.

He was believed to have been burning for around three minutes as people rushed over to douse him with a fire extinguisher and tried to bat away the flames.

Emergency responders then took him away on a stretcher. He is in critical condition, the NYPD said.

The incident took place on the fourth day of Donald Trump's trial in Manhattan.

It happened in a park across the street from the courthouse, which has been a gathering point for protesters and outlets covering jury selection for the trial.

Read more: From a man who meditates every morning to a corporate lawyer: The 12 jurors who will decide Donald Trump's fate

Read more: Trump warned against intimidating jurors as he mutters under his breath in court

Pamphlets left at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court
Pamphlets left at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court. Picture: Getty

A full jury of 12 people and six alternatives were selected for the trial just minutes earlier, drawing it a step closer to opening statements.

The NYPD said it had launched an investigation after being called to the fire at around 1.37pm.

A motive for the self-immolation is yet to be determined.

Witnesses said Azzarello threw pamphlets in the air before he set himself ablaze, according to The New York Times.

They appeared to reference President George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore, and Jeffrey Epstein.

Azzarello's substack states that he is an "investigative researcher". 

Just before the incident, a post was published that read: "I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial."

Maxwell Azzarello
Maxwell Azzarello. Picture: Instagram

The Trump campaign released a statement offering its "condolences to the traumatized witnesses" after the incident.

“Not knowing the motivations behind this sickening situation, it’s difficult to make any definitive remarks, other than to say we are thankful that to the best of our present knowledge, nobody other than the individual in question was hurt," national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said.

She also thanked "the great first responders of the City of New York for their actions".

Mr Trump's trial will place him in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks, forcing him to juggle his dual role as criminal defendant and political candidate against President Joe Biden.

The case brought by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of falsifying business records to suppress stories about his sex life emerging in the final days of the 2016 election.

It centres on a 130,000-dollar (£105,000) payment that Trump's lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen made shortly before the 2016 election to porn actress Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the race's final days.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.