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Valley Public Radio Staff
Tue October 8, 2013
Family Of Man Who Set Himself On Fire Says Act Wasn't Political
Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 9:55 am
Officials have identified the man who died after setting fire to himself last week on the National Mall as John Constantino, 64, of Mount Laurel, N.J.
Constantino poured gasoline on his body and ignited it Friday afternoon while sitting on the mall. Passersby used their clothing to try to put out the flames. He was eventually airlifted to a hospital, where he died later that night.
Constantino "had burns so severe that authorities needed to use DNA and dental records to identify him," The Associated Press reports. "District of Columbia police spokesman Paul Metcalf in an emailed statement confirmed his identity."
No messages or signs stating a reason for the shocking act were visible on the mall, according to authorities and witnesses. And in a statement released last night, Constantino's family says that a clear motive may never emerge.
In a statement released through an attorney, according to The Washington Post, the family said Constantino's death "was not a political act or statement, but the result of a long battle with mental illness." The AP received the same statement, in which family members called Constantino a "loving father and husband."
The family also said that they "would like to acknowledge the heroism of the paramedics and bystanders who attempted to save his life."
The incident, which occurred in plain view of the Capitol, occurred a day after a fatal car chase that began at the White House and ended at a guardhouse leading to the Capitol. The woman who was shot to death in that episode had also struggled with mental health issues, her family and other sources said.
As we reported earlier, a woman who says she witnessed the self-immolation Friday told the AP that she saw a man with a tripod near Constantino and that the man left the scene before police arrived. She told the news agency:
" 'He appeared to be waiting for something to happen. After it happened, he was gone,' [Katy] Scheflen, a Justice Department lawyer, said of the man with the tripod. 'I can't say what the connection was between them or whether there was a connection,' she added."