ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — A man who set himself on fire outside a Walmart store in Alabama was reported in stable condition Friday at a Tennessee hospital.
After the incident happened about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the man was taken to a hospital in Athens, Alabama, and then sent by helicopter ambulance to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, The Athens News Courier reported.
VUMC spokeswoman Kristin Smart confirmed the man was alive and in stable condition as of Friday morning. Further details were not released.
Authorities have not released the man’s name. Investigators are trying to understand why he did it.
Athens Fire Chief Floyd Johnson tells news outlets that the man doused himself with gasoline and ran into the store before coming outside and setting himself ablaze. Police were using fire extinguishers from their patrol cars to extinguish the flames when fire crews arrived.
Johnson said it’s unclear whether the man suffered from mental illness or set fire to himself for another reason.
No bystanders were injured, he said.
Carrie Turner said she was at the gas station when she saw “a man standing in front of a gas pump, with no car, acting very agitated and suspicious.”
She told the newspaper the man was talking to himself, but she couldn’t tell what he was saying. She said she saw him drench himself in gasoline and run into Walmart briefly. After exiting the store, he ran to the northeast corner of the parking lot, where he lit himself on fire, she said.
Turner said she didn’t see the actual lighting, but by that time, she had already reported his behavior to authorities. She said officers arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames with hand-held fire extinguishers seconds after the fire started.