Veteran Sets Self on Fire Outside Georgia Capitol

He suffered burns to at least 85% of his body
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2018 7:41 AM CDT
Veteran Sets Self on Fire Outside Georgia Capitol
The Atlanta police bomb squad work on the scene after a man lit himself on fire outside the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday.   (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

A man claiming to be an Air Force veteran upset with the Department of Veterans Affairs set himself on fire in front of the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, suffering burns to at least 85% of his body. Authorities say 58-year-old John Michael Watts parked a vehicle and started walking toward the building around 10:45am. "He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices, some firecrackers and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid and attempted to set himself on fire," Capt. Mark Perry of the Georgia State Patrol says, per the New York Times. An off-duty GSP trooper driving by saw flames, jumped out of his car, "and was able to douse him pretty quickly" using a fire extinguisher, Perry adds.

The man, of no current address, was then taken to Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital with burns to 85% to 90% of his body. "He did indicate that he is disgruntled with the VA system and was seeking attention for that," says Perry, who initially indicated a phone number seen on a sign in the man's windshield could be connected to another device. A bomb squad later removed the contents of the vehicle without issue, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. There were no reports of other injuries. Though it cannot "comment on the specifics of this Veteran's case due to patient privacy laws," the Department of Veteran Affairs tells the Washington Post it "is ensuring he receives the VA care that he needs." (Read more Georgia stories.)

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