Veteran sets himself on fire in front of Georgia Capitol, protesting treatment by VA
An Air Force veteran set himself on fire in front of Georgia’s state Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday morning, reportedly in an act of protest against the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The 58-year-old man parked his vehicle next to the Capitol around 10:45 a.m., then walked toward the building according to police.
Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry said, “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.”
An off-duty trooper happened to be driving by in his patrol car and realized what was happening. He rushed toward the veteran with a fire extinguisher “and was able to douse him pretty quickly” Capt. Perry said.
Officials closed off streets surrounding the Capitol, evacuated the building as well as judiciary buildings and a nearby day care. They also searched the vet’s vehicle (as well as the Capitol grounds) for any possible additional explosives.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Atlanta Police, and the George Bureau of Investigation all worked in coordination following the incident.
Commissioner Mark McDonough of the Georgia Department of Public Safety told reporters, “It looks like a veteran that was disgruntled with the VA did a personal protest in front of the Capitol which involved gasoline and some fireworks.”
Captain Perry confirmed that the vet was able to speak after the incident, saying, “He did indicate that he is disgruntled with the V.A. system and was seeking attention for that.”
This is the second time in just a few years that a veteran has publicly set themselves on fire in protest of the VA. A 51-year-old vet died in March of 2016, after fatally burning himself outside a New Jersey Veterans Affairs clinic out of protest for not receiving the care he needed.
For several years, the VA has been plagued by scandals. President Trump has vowed to clean up the Department, signing last year’s VA accountability act into law, firing secretary of veterans affairs David Shulkin in March, and donating one quarter of the president’s own first quarter salary to the Department of Veterans Affairs in May.