Long Island Native Max Azzarello Dies After Setting Himself on Fire Outside Trump Trial in NYC

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A metal can sits on the ground at the scene where a man lit himself on fire in a park outside Manhattan criminal court, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York.. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A Long Island native who set himself on fire Friday outside of the Manhattan criminal courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial died of his injuries hours later.

Maxwell Azzarello, 37, a 2005 graduate of North Shore High School in Glen Head who previously lived in Sea Cliff, was pronounced dead at a hospital in New York City, where he was taken after self immolating at about 1:35 p.m. Friday.

Azzarello, whose most recent address was in St. Augustine, Florida, doused himself with an alcohol-based liquid used for cleaning and threw flyers into the air while walking through the park before setting the fire, according to police, fire and witness accounts. As he was on fire, NYPD Chief of Department James Maddery said that Azzarello took a few steps before falling onto a police barrier and down to the ground. Civilians and police and court officers made efforts to put the fire out before FDNY responded to the scene.

A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time. Four officers suffered minor injuries as a result of the incident. 

The Bomb Squad checked the park for any additional devices that could be connected but haven’t found any so far. The FDNY Fire Marshal was also on scene investigating. The NYPD confirmed that prior to the incident, Azzarello posted on his social media about lighting himself on fire. The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park. 

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday. Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.

Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.

According to CNN, the flyers Azzarello threw said “NYU is a mob front” as well as other allegations of the school’s alleged offenses. The New York Times also reported that some of the flyers mentioned former president George W. Bush, former vice president Al Gore, and David Boies, and also contained anti-government conspiracy theories.

He identified himself on his LinkedIn profile as a self-employed investigative researcher who lists his prior work experience as a four-month stint as operations director for the Friends of Tom Suozzi 2013 when Suozzi, at the time the former Nassau County Executive, was challenging then-County Executive Ed Mangano to get the role back. A representative for U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) was not immediately available for comment.

The incident is the third politically motivated self immolation on American soil in five months. It comes after Aaron Bushbell, a member of the U.S. Air Force, set himself on fire outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. in February in protest of the war on Hamas. That fatality came after a similarly motivated unidentified woman set herself on fire outside of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta in December.

-With amNewYork Metro and Associated Press