In a tragic development, the unidentified man who set himself on fire on the National Mall at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday in between the Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery, and who sustained burns to 80% of his body, has died. AP reports: "A District of Columbia police spokesman says a man who set himself on fire on the National Mall has died his injuries. Officer Araz Alali says the man died Friday night at a hospital where he had been airlifted. He says the man was so badly burned that he will need to be through DNA and dental records. The man poured a can of gasoline on himself in the center portion of the mall Friday afternoon. He then set himself on fire, with passing joggers taking off their shirts to help douse the flames."
Oddly enough, the deceased self-immolator was conscious and coherent enough in the aftermath of the incident to thank passers by for putting out the flames before being taken to hospital:
The man reportedly thanked the joggers before he was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center by a U.S. Park Police helicopter that landed on the Mall.
Fire department spokesman Tim Wilson said the man suffered life-threatening injuries, but was conscious and breathing at the scene.
Authorities are now investigating the man's motives.
As AP adds, Police are investigating the man's possible motives for doing so. They will hardly find any, as the last thing the Obama administration needs right now is to start explaining why D.C. has become ground zero for America's own Arab Spring. Especially, if in a country in which fomenting class and social hatred once again boils down to racial characteristics.
Some more recollections by observers:
"I saw like a spark," she said. "Then he just went completely up in flames."
"Some heads up joggers put out the flames," she said. "A guy took his shirt off, ran over, you know, start trying to beat the flames out. A couple other joggers also stopped to help."
"It's very shocking," she said. "It's horrifying. Literally watching this guy go up in flames. There was not really anything anybody could do."
A question has emerged: was it an act meant to be documented, and if so why:
Katy Scheflen, a furloughed civil rights attorney in the Justice Department, said she stopped because she saw "a guy with a tripod set up."
Scheflen said another man, who she thought the tripod with a camera was filming, then took a red can of gasoline, poured it over his head.
"At that point we didn't know what was going, maybe it was some sort of stage protest," Scheflen said. "And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames," she said. "Whoosh."
Scheflen said the presence of a mounted camera gave her the impression "he was aware something was about to happen. Otherwise he was filming nothing but a guy standing there."
"It was obviously an intentional act," she said. "Somebody has a video of the whole thing."
Scheflen said the man may have said something beforehand “but it was nothing intelligible.”
And speaking of the seasons, in Tunisia it was Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation on December 17, 2010 (and subsequent death 18 days later) that sparked the Arab Spring reaching as far as Saudi Arabia and China. One wonders: will the death of the so far unidentified man lead to anything more than even more vocal and relentless fingerpointing at assorted highly politicized media echo chambers.