VIDEO: The man who set himself on fire in front of the court in New York has died

A man set himself on fire in front of a court in New York/Photo: EPA-EFE/SARAH YENESEL

The man who set himself on fire yesterday in court in New York, where Donald Trump's criminal trial was being held, died, but officials said it appeared he did not target the former US president himself.

The man was engulfed in flames for several minutes in front of television cameras set up outside the courthouse to follow the trial of Trump - the first former president in US history to be tried in a criminal court.

NBC News and other American media reported early today (local time) that the man had died. The New York Police Department said, according to NBC News, that authorities at the hospital where the man was taken pronounced him dead.

Officials previously said the man, in his late 40s, was in critical condition.

Witnesses said they saw the man take leaflets out of a backpack and throw them into the air, then douse himself in liquid and set himself on fire. One of those leaflets contained references to "evil billionaires," but the passages seen by a Reuters witness did not mention Trump.

New York police said the man, identified by authorities as Max Azzarello of St. Augustine, Florida, did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the lawsuit.

"Right now we're characterizing him as some sort of conspiracy theorist and going from there," Deputy Police Commissioner Tariq Shepard told a news conference.

In an online manifesto, a man with that name said he was setting himself on fire and apologized to friends, bystanders and rescuers. The post talks about "an apocalyptic fascist coup" and criticizes cryptocurrencies and US politicians, without however specifically singling out Trump.

The smell of smoke could be felt at the scene shortly after the incident, according to a Reuters witness, as a police officer sprayed the ground with a fire extinguisher. At the time, there was a smoldering backpack and a gas lighter at the scene.

The shocking incident came shortly after jury selection for Trump's trial ended, clearing the way for prosecutors and defense attorneys to resume opening arguments next week.

In this case, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying documents to hide money he paid former porn star Stormy Daniels before the election.

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