United States

Bethesda Man Dies After Lighting Self on Fire Near White House Ellipse

The man apparently was reporting missing hours before the shocking incident

What to Know

  • Police say a man from Bethesda set himself ablaze Wednesday and later died
  • Passersby expressed alarm on social media after seeing a large plume of smoke on the White House Ellipse
  • No information on his motive has been released

A man who set himself ablaze Wednesday on the ground of the White House Ellipse has died, U.S. Park Police say.

Arnav Gupta, of Bethesda, Maryland, died later that night at the hospital.

It appears that Gupta was reported missing to Montgomery County, Maryland, police on Wednesday morning. Family members last saw him about 9:20 a.m., when he left his home, police say. Police were concerned for the physical and emotional welfare of the 33-year-old man.

Police say Gupta lit himself on fire about 12:20 p.m. Secret Service, National Park Service and U.S. Park Police personnel responded to the scene.

"Like a torch, his whole body was on fire," a witness said. "He was just walking like he was a zombie or something. Just straight, he wasn't running and screaming or anything. He was walking straight. Then they put the extinguisher on him and put his [fire] out and that's it."

Passersby expressed alarm on social media after seeing a large plume of smoke billowing from a grassy area at 15th and Constitution Avenue Northwest, near a security checkpoint.

Gupta was taken to a local hospital for treatment, U.S. Park Police said. He died later in the evening.

Alina Berzins, 17, said she and her family were sightseeing when they saw the man running and covered in flames.

"We were just looking at the White House to take pictures and he just came out of nowhere," she said.

The White House and surrounding grounds often see security-related disturbances. In April, a man sitting in an electric scooter lit his jacket on fire in front of the White House.

Rima Abdelkader and Derrick Ward contributed to this report.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, including at risk of suicide or self-harm, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are available 24/7.

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