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Veteran sets self afire at state Capitol
Strapped fireworks to body, poured volatile liquid, lit fire
The Atlanta police bomb squad responds after a veteran who says he was disgruntled with the Department of Veterans Affairs set himself on fire in protest Tuesday outside the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta, according to the Georgia State Patrol. The veteran was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital with burns over 85 to 90 percent of his body, said Mark Perry, Director of Public Information for the Georgia Department of Public Safety. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — A man who says he was disgruntled with the Veterans Affairs system strapped fireworks to his chest and lit himself on fire in front of the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday.

The incident prompted the Capitol building to be evacuated and the surrounding streets to be shut down. No one else was injured.

"He had (fireworks) strapped to himself and as I understand doused himself with some additional flammable and set himself on fire," said Capt. Mark Perry of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. "I'm not sure if it was gasoline or kerosene or what it was."

Almost simultaneously, Perry said, "one of the Capitol troopers saw what was happening, came out, actually had a fire extinguisher and was able to douse him pretty quickly."

Law officers have not provided details on the man's complaints about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, saying only that he is disgruntled with the system.

"I'm not sure what his history is there, but he is disgruntled with the VA system and is trying to draw some attention to that. He stated something to the effect that he was looking for some help," Perry said.

Perry said the man's condition wasn't immediately known; he was burned but could still speak to officers. Perry said the man, whose identity was not immediately known, said he was a veteran. He was brought to Grady Memorial Hospital.

Loud explosions can be heard in video of a news conference that was going on at the time. In the video posted by WSB-TV, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale pauses several times and looks around nervously as the explosions are heard. Seconds later, the state troopers who were standing behind her hurry off to investigate. The news conference, on a Georgia law requiring hands-free electronic devices in automobiles, was then abruptly called off.

A Nissan Sentra possibly belonging to the man was parked in front of the Capitol and was being investigated by a bomb squad unit on Tuesday afternoon.

"While we can't comment on the specifics of this veteran's case due to patient privacy laws, the department is ensuring he receives the VA care that he needs," Jan Northstar, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Veterans groups in recent years have demanded changes in the nation's Veterans Affairs system. Some veterans say they've had to wait months for appointments. On June 6, President Donald Trump signed legislation aimed at allowing veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the system in an attempt to reduce wait times and improve care.

Associated Press Writer Jeff Martin contributed.

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