BY COLBY ITKOWITZ
WASHINGTON BUREAU; The Associated Press contributed to this story.
November 16, 2004
WASHINGTON - A man who wanted to hand-deliver a letter to President George W. Bush yesterday set himself afire outside the White House after guards encouraged him to mail the letter instead.
Witnesses said the man poured a gasoline-like substance on his jacket before pulling a lighter from his pocket and igniting himself, said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Authorities said the man is 52 and of Middle Eastern descent, but his name was not released.
Etter said the man is expected to live. Hospital officials would not release his condition.
The man had approached the northwest entrance to the White House grounds at 2:05 p.m. and began to walk away after guards there told him he could not hand-deliver a letter to the president. He was about 15 feet from the gate when he started the fire, said Lt. Patrick O'Brien of the U.S. Park Police.
O'Brien said Secret Service officers hurled the man onto the sidewalk near West Executive Drive and immediately used an extinguisher to put out the flames.
Leaving behind a pile of burned clothing, ripped gauze, strewn papers and a backpack, the man was taken to Washington Hospital Center with severe burns over 30 percent of his body, O'Brien said. Though screaming and moaning incoherently, the man did not say anything in protest of the president and his bag did not contain any explosives, O'Brien said.
Secret Service personnel, who are investigating the incident, confiscated the man's belongings and did not release the contents of the letter, which was still partly legible.
The man appeared to be acting alone, Etter said. The Secret Service declined to comment.
In an unrelated incident, a different man jumped the fence on the north side of the White House grounds. Officers of the Secret Service's uniformed division apprehended the man shortly after 5 p.m., Lewis said. The incident is under investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Oh, how embarrassing for those guards. He showed them!