Man Who Self-Immolated at Trump Trial Once Worked for NY Dem

Police and emergency officials gather
Police and emergency officials gather in a park outside of Manhattan Criminal Court as smoke still lingers where a man set himself on fire. | Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Maxwell Azzarello, the man who lit himself on fire in front of the courthouse where former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial is underway, once worked for Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Souzzi (D-NY) is the representative who won former Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) seat after the latter was booted from the House. Azzarello worked on Souzzi’s campaign for Nassau County executive in 2013, as reported by Fox News. Azzarello died Friday night, several hours after he self-immolated.

The New York City Police Department does not believe Azzarello was motivated by his presumed political party affiliation. Azzarello had recently posted messages on social media about conspiracy theories and was photographed on April 18 in New York carrying a sign that read, “Trump is with Biden and they’re about to fascist coup us.”

Souzzi said he remembers Azzarello working on his 2013 campaign.

“Even though I haven’t seen or talked to Max since then, I recall him being very kind, smart, and hardworking. It is tragic that he has succumbed to his injuries, and I am keeping Max and his family in my prayers,” Souzzi said, per Fox News.

Friends who spoke with The New York Times said that Azzarello began to change after the death of his mother in 2022. He had several run-ins with Fort Augustine police in Florida in August 2023 after a brief stay in a mental health facility.

According to NYT, Azzarello threw a glass of wine at a wall autograph by former President Bill Clinton at an area hotel. Two days later, he stood in front of the hotel in his underwear, shouting through a bullhorn.

“An extremely nice person,” said Larry Altman, the property manager at Azzarello’s Florida apartment building, per NYT. “He had political views that I would not consider mainstream. He called our government and the world government a Ponzi scheme.”

Altman said that Azzarello was a respectful man who would shake hands when he met people. His beliefs in conspiracies appear to have developed over the last few years and led to posts on social media espousing unconventional ideas.

“Like frogs in water coming to a boil, the public didn’t notice the rotten truth behind the illusion of freedom,” Azzarello wrote on Facebook, according to NYT. He reportedly feared fascism and cryptocurrency.

Azzarello entered a public space at Collect Pond Park, where protesters had previously gathered ahead of the seating of jurors in the Trump trial. At about 12:30 p.m. CT, Azzarello threw a handful of pamphlets into the air, then doused himself in an alcohol-based accelerant before lighting himself on fire. The act of self-immolation was unintentionally caught on live television by Fox News and CNN.

Within minutes, emergency personnel were on site and attempted to render aid. He was quickly taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

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