Airman dies lighting himself on fire, saying 'free Palestine' outside Israeli Embassy

A bomb squad also investigated a car linked to the man, police said.

An active-duty airman has died after authorities say he set himself on fire Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., in what he described as "an extreme act of protest" over the Israel-Hamas war.

The man was identified by the Metropolitan Police Department as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell of San Antonio. The Air Force confirmed to ABC News that Bushnell was on active-duty status at the time of his fatal protest.

The incident unfolded just before 1 p.m. ET outside the gates of the Israeli Embassy in northwest Washington, according to statements from the city's Metropolitan Police Department and Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

ABC News has obtained an unedited recording of the video Bushnell livestreamed to Twitch Sunday, showing him dressed in camouflage fatigues and walking up to the embassy gate before dousing himself in a flammable liquid and setting himself on fire.

During the livestream, Bushnell is heard saying "I will no longer be complicit in genocide" and repeatedly screamed "free Palestine" as flames engulfed his body.

"We arrived to find an apparent adult male who had been on fire," the Fire and EMS Department said in its statement.

Members of the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division extinguished the flames before fire crews arrived, officials said.

PHOTO: The Israeli flag flies at half-staff in memory of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sept. 30, 2016.
The Israeli flag flies at half-staff in memory of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sept. 30, 2016.
Gary Cameron/Reuters, FILE

Bushnell was unconscious when he was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Police officials did not comment on why the man set himself ablaze.

Police detectives, the Secret Service Uniformed Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the incident.

The Secret Service is conducting a search of Bushnell's hotel room in Silver Spring, Maryland, where the airman stayed just before he set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The agency is doing an investigation into what his motivators could have been, and his life up to date, according to the source.

The Secret Service declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

The police department's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit was also called to the scene as police investigated a suspicious vehicle in the area that authorities believe is linked to Bushnell. The vehicle was searched, but no hazardous material was found, police said.

The Israeli Embassy released a statement saying the man was "unknown" to embassy staff.

No embassy workers were injured in the incident, and all were reported safe, embassy officials said.

Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, removed the video of Bushnell's act. ABC News has reached out to the social media platform for comment but has yet to receive a response.

The video was also posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, and Meta's Facebook and Instagram.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement to ABC News that the platform has decided not to remove Bushnell's video from its site.

"We allow images and video of this incident, but include a warning screen so that people are aware the content may be disturbing," Stone said.

"When a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the Air Force feels it,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Celina Noyes, 70th ISRW Commander."“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Airman Bushnell. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time."

Bushnell grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he attended Nauset Public Schools between 2003 and 2014, school officials told ABC News.

"The Nauset Public Schools is heartbroken to learn of the untimely death of one of our former students, Aaron Bushnell," the school district said in a statement. "Our school community is saddened by Mr. Bushnell's death and we offer our condolences to his family and friends."

Bushnell also attended Southern New Hampshire University, taking online courses in 2023 to pursue a computer science degree, the college said in a statement. Bushnell was pre-registered for the upcoming term, which is scheduled to start next week, according to the school.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Aaron's passing and the SNHU community sends its deepest condolences to Aaron's family and friends," the school said in a statement.

A similar incident occurred on Dec. 1 outside an Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta, where a woman wrapped in a Palestinian flag intentionally set herself on fire in an apparent political protest, according to police. The woman, who was critically injured, ignited herself after dousing herself with gasoline, police said. A security guard suffered burns when he attempted to put the fire out, according to police.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ABC News' Luke Barr, Sinead Hawkins, Nate Luna and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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