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Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former U.S. president Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.

Witnesses to incident say man threw pamphlets in air, then lit himself on fire

A police officer uses a fire extinguisher outside the New York court house where former U.S. president Donald Trump's hush-money trial is being held.
A police officer uses a fire extinguisher as emergency personnel on Friday respond to the scene where a person was covered in flames. The incident took place outside the New York courthouse where former U.S. president Donald Trump's hush-money trial is underway. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former U.S. president Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.

The New York City Police Department said the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital early Saturday.

The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.

A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition.

WATCH | Woman tells reporters what she saw before man lit himself on fire: 

Trump jury selected as man sets himself on fire outside

2 months ago
Duration 2:20
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details | With jury selection complete, opening arguments in Donald Trump's hush money trial are set to begin Monday. But just as the work week was about to wrap up, a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse.

The man, who police said had travelled from Florida to New York in the last few days, hadn't breached any security checkpoints to get into the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump's trial, which began with jury selection Monday.

Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.

Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.

"We may have to shut this area down," New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.

Police officers collect pamphlets strewn about by a man who reportedly set himself on fire outside a New York courthouse.
Police officers collect pamphlets dropped by a person who was covered in flames outside the courthouse where Trump's criminal hush-money trial is taking place. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The shocking development came shortly after jury selection for Trump's trial was completed, clearing the way for prosecutors and defence lawyers to make opening statements next week in a case stemming from hush money paid to a porn star.

The New York Police Department said the man who died, who they identified as Max Azzarello of St. Augustine, Fla., did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

'Sort of a conspiracy theorist'

"Right now we are labelling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there," Tarik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the Police Department, said at a news conference.

Lawyers will present opening statements at Trump's trial on Monday morning before prosecutors begin laying out their case, alleging a scheme to cover up negative stories Trump feared would hurt his 2016 presidential campaign.

The 12 jurors, along with six alternates, will consider evidence in the first-ever trial to determine whether a former U.S. president is guilty of breaking the law.

Trump is accused of covering up a $130,000 US payment his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says they had a decade earlier.

A man holds up a sign.
Max Azzarello of St. Augustine, Fla., identified by police as the man who set himself on fire on Friday, holds a sign a day earlier outside the Manhattan criminal courthouse in New York City. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and denies any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in three other criminal cases as well, but this is the only one certain to go to trial ahead of the Nov. 5 election, when the Republican politician aims to again take on Democrat and U.S. President Joe Biden.

A conviction would not bar Trump from office.

With files from Reuters