Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell died of his injuries on Sunday after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his opposition to the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza, Air Force officials said.

The Air Force deferred questions about the incident to Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.   

Bushnell, 25, was a cyber defense operations specialist assigned to the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, Texas, according to the Air Force. He had served on active duty since May 2020.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the Air Force feels it,” Air Force Col.  Celina Noyes, commander of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Airman Bushnell. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

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In the roughly 3-minute video, Bushnell says he is an active-duty airman and that he will “no longer be complicit in genocide.”

“I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but when compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all,” Bushnell says. “This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”

Bushnell then puts down his camera, stands in front of the embassy, douses himself with a clear liquid from a thermos, puts his cover on, and tries to ignite himself as someone off camera asks, “Hi sir, can I help you?”

After a few seconds, he sets himself alight and screams “Free Palestine!” several times as the flames quickly consume him. Then he starts screaming.

People off camera can be heard yelling: “Man’s on fire! Man’s on fire!”

Bushnell continues to scream as another person off camera yells at him to get on the ground, presumably so he can put out the flames.

Sirens can be heard as Bushnell tries to yell “Free Palestine” again, but his screams become unintelligible. People on the scene call for a fire extinguisher.  After burning for a minute, the man collapses, and a first responder tries to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.

Bushnell continues to burn as a first responder yells, “I don’t need guns, I need a fire extinguisher.”

About 3 minutes into the video, two officers with extinguishers manage to smother the flames. The video ends when someone picks up the camera and says: “What is this? Who is this?”

UPDATE: 02/27/2024; this story was updated after the Air Force identified the airman who died after setting himself on fire as Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell.

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