Authorities were called to The National Mall today near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum after onlookers spotted a man on fire.
According to a D.C. Metropolitan Police spokeswoman, joggers and other onlookers saw an unnamed individual engulfed in flames, with many taking off their shirts and attempting to put the man out.
Cops arrived on the scene around 4:30 p.m.
Emergency workers quickly descended on the victim, who they found conscious and breathing. A medical helicopter then touched down and took the man to a local hospital.
“I was crossing the street and didn't see him pour the gas or light the match, but saw the flames move up from the middle of his body to his arms,” Vanessa Sink tells Yahoo News. “He didn't make any noise that I heard.”
Because the incident took place in such a public location, Twitter soon blew up with photos and comments. (Example: @LiveMusicGirl: "Just witnessed the craziest thing ever... a man set himself on fire and danced down the Mall. #horrifying")
The U.S. Park Police is investigating along with the police department, which has dispatched its violent crimes branch, the typical responders to cases that involve a person suffering a major injury.
Neither the man's name nor his motive has been released.
But the self-immolation took place in a city currently going through a government shutdown and in which a high-speed chase outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday ended with a woman, Miriam Carey, being killed by police.