Family: Man who set self on fire was mentally ill
WASHINGTON — The death of a New Jersey man who set himself on fire on the National Mall was the result of his long fight with mental illness, not a political statement, his family said.
John Constantino, 64, of Mount Laurel, N.J., poured the contents of a canister of gasoline on himself in the center portion of the mall Friday afternoon, police said. He then set himself ablaze, with passing joggers taking off their shirts to help put out the flames.
Police had said Constantino conscious and breathing at the scene, but he died later that night at a Washington hospital.
"John Constantino was a loving father and husband. His death was not a political act or statement, but the result of his long battle with mental illness," his family said in a statement issued through attorney Jeffrey Cox.
The statement did not address the nature of the mental illness.
The family said in the statement that it "would like to acknowledge the heroism of the paramedics and bystanders who attempted to save" Constantino.
The family "is shocked and deeply saddened," the statement said. Describing the incident as a "personal family matter and not an issue of public concern," it asked that the media respect its request for privacy.
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