Man Who Set Himself on Fire at Trump Trial Dies


Conspiracy theorist Max Azzarello, who set himself on fire across the street from former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial on Friday, has died.

An NYPD spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Saturday that the 37-year-old was taken to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition but died shortly before 11 p.m. Friday.

Police earlier said Azzarello was from St. Augustine, Florida, and did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

He had earlier posted online saying the act was an “extreme act of protest draw attention to an urgent and important discovery.”

His Substack manifesto railed against cryptocurrency, New York University, the Clintons, and the world’s governments, saying the readers are “victims of a totalitarian con” similar to a Ponzi scheme.

The horrific self-immolation occurred at 1:35 p.m. when Azzarello removed multiple pamphlets from his bag, doused himself in an alcohol-based accelerant and set himself on fire.

Trump Trial Self-Immolator Posted Dizzying Manifesto Online

Azzarello ‘was very quiet’ during self-immolation

Eyewitness William Schoeffler told the New York Post he screamed for police to extinguish the fire, noting that Azzarello was surprisingly quiet as his body caught fire.

“I just started screaming for the cops, trying to get someone in there. Once he lit himself, there was nothing you could do, take off a jacket and throw it over it, the flames were massive,” he told the Post. “By the time the cops got there, all of the fuel had burnt off of his body, and you could see his skin. He didn’t make too much noise, he was very quiet. Pretty horrifying.”

Those who knew Azzarello told The Daily Beast that he’d “gone a little haywire” in recent years, with his posts to Facebook growing more and more unhinged.

“[He is] a very personable guy, not an idiot when you’re sitting around talking with him, but over the course of the last few years he’s become more and more involved with the thought process that everything is a conspiracy against the common person,” his former landlord, Larry Altman, told The Daily Beast. “Authority is not doing anything to help you.”

Trump trial security to be reviewed

Azzarello’s self-immolation amplified concerns that Trump’s historic trial in Manhattan—which is set to continue for months—could be a magnet for dramatic acts of protest or violence.

When asked if Azzarello’s action prompted police to review or alter security protocol, an NYPD spokesperson referred The Daily Beast to a press conference on Friday in which department officials addressed the issue.

Though officials said “no security breach” was evident on Friday, given that the protest occurred in a public space, they said they will consider increasing law enforcement presence around the courthouse or even shutting down the public park where Azzarello set himself on fire.

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said that law enforcement will review their security protocols due to the “gravity of the event going on.”

“We’re very concerned,” Maddrey said. “Of course we’re going to look at everything... we’re going to reassess our security with our federal partners.”

A dramatic trend of self-immolation

Azzarello’s fatal act is the latest instance of a centuries-old form of protest that is continuing to find new outlets in a number of contemporary crises.

Since the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in 1963 to protest the South Vietnamese government—which was captured in a defining photograph of that period—activists and true believers have decided to end their lives in hopes of drawing attention to their cause.

The Trump Trial Self-Immolation Is Part of a Startling Trend

The two most recent self-immolation suicides in the U.S. were meant to draw attention to Israel’s brutal war in Gaza.

In February, Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year old U.S. Air Force serviceman, died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington. He live streamed himself preparing for the suicide, declaring himself as an active duty member of the military who will “no longer be complicit in genocide.”

Last December, an unnamed woman set herself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta and was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Her identity was not disclosed and no update on her condition was ever announced. A Palestinian flag was found near the scene.

On Earth Day 2022, Wynn Alan Bruce, a 50-year old climate activist, set himself on fire outside the U.S. Supreme Court. He left no note or manifesto but a friend of Bruce’s wrote on social media that he died not by suicide but in a “deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to the climate crisis.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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