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Family says 64-year-old John Constantino set self on fire due to mental illness, not politics

By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 7:09 EDT
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Police have identified a man who apparently set himself on fire last week in the National Mall, and his family members said his fatal actions were not politically motivated.

Washington, D.C., authorities identified the man as 64-year-old John Constantino, of Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

Constantino died Friday night, hours after witnesses said he doused himself with gasoline, saluted the Capitol and used a lighter to set himself on fire.

An attorney for his family released a statement Monday night that described Constantino as a “loving father and husband” who had not acted out of political motives but after “a long battle with mental illness.”

But one witness said after the incident that he heard from others that Constantino had been “yelling something about voting rights” before gasoline over himself.

Witnesses said Constantino thanked joggers who stripped off their shirts and tried to extinguish the flames, and emergency crews said Constantino was still conscious when they arrived.

One witness said she saw a man set up a tripod nearby and that he appeared to be waiting for something to happen, but the man left before police arrived and investigators aren’t sure whether such a recording exists.

The incident took place amid the shutdown of the federal government over the Affordable Care Act and one day after a Connecticut woman was shot to death by police following a chase from the White House to Capitol Hill and nearly three weeks after a gunman killed 12 at the Navy Yard in southeast Washington.

Updated at 10:56 a.m. Tuesday to include a witness quote about Constantino allegedly making statements about his voting rights.

 
 
 
 
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