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Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial is dead

Maxwell Azzarello, the man who set himself on fire outside the New York courthouse where former US President Donald Trump is on trial has died, NBC News has reported.

Azzarello was “declared deceased by hospital staff”, police told NBC News in a phone call early on Saturday, local time.

No specific time of death was given.

Mr Azzarello, in his mid-30s, from St Augustine in Florida, threw conspiracy theory pamphlets in the air before setting himself alight in a designated protest area for pro and anti-Trump demonstrators on Friday.

He took a canister out of his bag containing what is believed to have been an alcohol-based accelerant, before dousing himself in the fluid and setting himself ablaze, police said.

Officers and civilians ran into the protest area and tried to put out the flames using coats and fire extinguishers.

New York City fire commissioner Laura Kavanagh told reporters that Azzarello was taken to the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Centre, where he had been described as alive but in critical condition, NBC News said.

Four NYPD police officers suffered minor injuries from fire exposure, authorities said.

NYPD chief of detectives Joseph Kenny told reporters: “The pamphlets appear to be propaganda-based, almost a conspiracy theory type of pamphlet.

“Some information in regards to a Ponzi scheme and the fact that some of our local educational institutes are fronts for the mob. So, a little bit of a conspiracy theory going on here.”

The blaze broke out after jury selection for Trump’s hush money trial concluded with 12 people, and six alternatives, chosen to decide whether the former US president covered up payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him.

The Trump campaign released a statement on Friday afternoon offering its “condolences to the traumatised witnesses” after the blaze.

Video shared on social media shows Mr Azzarello lying on his back on the pavement outside the courthouse while the lower part of his body is on fire.

Another man sprays him with a fire extinguisher which appears to put the fire out.

Police officers are seen running over to the scene as the fire is extinguished.

Ed Quinn, a freelance photojournalist who was outside the court at the time, told NBC News: “I heard someone scream ‘He’s going to light himself on fire!’.’

“I see him dumping gasoline on his face, very deliberately.

“He had a grey T-shirt on. It soaked his face. It soaked his shirt. Boom, he went up.”

Mr Quinn said it took the police about a minute to arrive.

He continued: “Women were begging, screaming, put it out, put him out.”

Mr Kenny said Azzarello was born in 1987 and arrived in New York City earlier in the week, NBC reported.

He said police were in contact with members of his family after the incident but they were unaware that he was in the city.

Historic trial to start Monday despite Trump’s objections

The historic case, the first criminal trial of a former US president, is due to start on Monday after a last-minute bid by Trump to halt proceedings over his claims that the jury selection process was unfairly rushed, was rejected by an appeals court judge.

Trump is accused of criminally altering business records to cover up a $130,000 (£104,200) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, during his 2016 election campaign.

Ms Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 (£120,000), both claim to have had affairs with Trump.

His lawyers say the payment was meant to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not help him win the election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is facing three other criminal cases which could go to trial.

In court, one prospective juror was excused after saying she suffers from anxiety and felt she could struggle to be impartial, while another was called to the judge’s bench after bursting into tears.

The first woman said she takes medication and that as the days go on “I don’t think I will be able to be completely fair”.

The second broke down crying and, according to Sky News’ partner NBC News, said: “I have to be honest, I feel so nervous and anxious right now. I’m sorry.

“I thought I could do this… I don’t want you to feel like I’ve wasted anyone’s time,” she added before being called to the bench and excused.


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