WASHINGTON — As shocked tourists screamed for help, a man committed suicide Monday by immolating himself on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
"I saw a ball of flames on the Capitol steps and thought at first it was a flag-burning demonstration," said Larry Schuster, a reporter who was passing nearby. "Then I saw the shape of a human arm and thought it must be an effigy.
"Then, when I realized it was a human being, I started shouting for the police."
A few other tourists in the area also began shouting for help, but by the time police could put out the flames with fire extinguishers, the man was dead.
Capitol police spokesman Dan Nichols said that the man, whose identity was not known, was burned beyond recognition. Although the Capitol is often a site of demonstrations, the man appeared to have been alone and carried no placard or other notice of a political protest.