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Protesting veteran sets self ablaze with fireworks on Georgia State Capitol steps

The man used gasoline and fireworks to start the fire.

ATLANTA -- A man set himself on fire during a protest on the front steps of the Georgia State Capitol Tuesday morning, state officials said.

"He set himself on fire," said Col. Mark McDonough, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. "One of our troopers happened to catch it immediately. Got his fire extinguisher and used his fire extinguisher to put it out."

According to a statement from the Department of Public Safety, around 10:45 a.m., a 58-year-old white man pulled onto Washington Street on the west side the Capitol, exited his car and approached the west side entrance of the Capitol wearing a vest lined with "fireworks and flammable devices."

Authorities said he then doused himself in a "flammable liquid" and lit the fireworks. A quick-thinking state trooper saw the incident and was able to quickly grab his fire extinguisher.

"We have somebody who claims to be a veteran that is disgruntled by treatment by the V.A.," McDonough said.

11Alive has since learned that the man identified himself as an Air Force veteran and that he was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment of serious injuries but was awake, authorities said.

It was during a news conference on Central Avenue about the new hands-free driving law when a group of Georgia State Troopers paused due to activity happening off-camera and then immediately ran from the scene. Atlanta Police officers followed.

As 11Alive's photographer got closer, a trooper said "You're not in a safe place" and told him to move back. Those words were echoed to others in the area as responding officers worked to keep the public far back from the scene for their own safety as they secured the area.

The Capitol was then evacuated and the roads surrounding the Capitol closed while state agents checked the area for any possible explosives. This also involved the deployment of a bomb disposal robot into the Capitol.

Officers on the scene told 11Alive that a gray sedan where the robot was focused belonged to the suspect.

By 5:40 p.m., the GBI gave an "all-clear" to the area.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. The Department of Veteran Affairs has a national center for the disorder, created nearly 30 years ago. It works to improve treatment for PTSD and advance scientific research. You can find resources for PTSD on their website PTSD.VA.Gov.

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