Florida man sets himself on fire across from Trump's hush money trial

Max Azzarello in critical condition at burn unit
Police inspect backpack where man lit himself on fire across from Trump trial, April 19, 2024
Posted at 3:31 PM, Apr 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-19 17:22:30-04

NEW YORK — New York police said a man set himself on fire in the park across the street from the courthouse where Donald Trump's hush money trial is taking place.

Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Florida, walked into a public park across from Manhattan criminal court at about 1:30 p.m. and then doused himself in flammable liquid — just as the jury was being seated in the former president's trial, police said.

Passersby rushed to douse the flames and the man was rushed away on a stretcher by emergency crews.

metal can outside where man lit himself on fire in New York, April 19, 2024
A metal can sits on the ground at the scene where a man lit himself on fire in a park outside Manhattan criminal court, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York.

He was listed in critical condition at a hospital's burn unit.

Officials believe the man had traveled from Florida to New York in the past few days.

Just before the incident, Azzarello threw pamphlets espousing anti-government conspiracy theories into the air, police said.

Azzarello had appeared outside the courthouse one day earlier with a sign displaying the address of a website where the same pamphlets were uploaded. The top post of the website reads: "I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial."

The manifesto continued:

"This extreme act of protest is to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery: We are victims of a totalitarian con, and our own government (along with many of their allies) is about to hit us with an apocalyptic fascist world coup," he wrote. "These claims sound like fantastical conspiracy theory, but they are not. They are proof of conspiracy. If you investigate this mountain of research, you will prove them too. If you learn a great deal about Ponzi schemes, you will discover that our life is a lie. If you follow this story and the links below, you will discover the rotten truth of 'post-truth America'. You will learn the scariest and stupidest story in world history. And you will realize that we are all in a desperate state of emergency that requires your action. To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you. But I assure you it is a drop in the bucket compared to what our government intends to inflict. Because these words are true, this is an act of revolution."
Police at NY park where man set himself on fire, April 19, 2024
New York law enforcement and fire department personnel inspect the scene where a man lit himself on fire in a park outside Manhattan criminal court, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York.

Authorities said they were reviewing the security protocols outside the courthouse.

"We are very concerned," Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said. "Of course, we are going to review our security protocols."