He Called in Sick at 5:30am, Died a Fiery Death an Hour Later

More on the suicide of gay-rights lawyer David Buckel
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2018 6:03 AM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2018 11:00 AM CDT
He Called in Sick at 5:30am, Died a Fiery Death an Hour Later
In this Feb. 15, 2006, file photo, Attorney David S. Buckel makes arguments in favor of gay marriage, during oral arguments seeking marriage for same sex couples at the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, NJ.   (AP Photo/Jose F. Moreno, Pool, File)

In the wake of lawyer David Buckel's fiery suicide in Brooklyn's Prospect Park last Saturday, the New York Times digs deeper into the 60-year-old's recent years and final moments. Buckel gained prominence for his work involving a case related to the death of transgender man Brandon Teena (portrayed by Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry), but he retired from practicing law in 2008 and went on to become what the Times terms a master composter at Brooklyn's Red Hook Community Farm. Domingo Morales, who worked under Buckel, says he got a text from Buckel at 5:30am Saturday in which Buckel called out of work due to sickness. Just before 6am came an email that Morales wouldn't see until he finished his shift that day; in it, Buckel apologized "for leaving this world early." CNN reports Buckel's body was found around 6:30am.

The email went on to apologize for "leaving you with some big challenges to tackle. But I have to at least try to make this planet a better place for having lived on it." A note left at the scene further emphasized that Buckel's death was a "protest suicide" over environmental issues. There were, perhaps, some indications all was not well: a back injury curtailed his work and raised difficult questions about where to put his efforts; he became more vocal in February regarding articles on environmental issues; and two weeks prior, Buckel emailed Morales the contacts and instructions he'd need to run the compost site. The Times recalls Buckel as someone who practiced what he preached: walking the hour it took to get to the park and not using any machines once there, to avoid relying on fossil fuels. (More self-immolation stories.)

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