Man sets himself ablaze at courthouse
Saturday, June 19, 2004
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An Iranian refugee holding a sign that read "Who's responsible" doused himself with gasoline Friday and set himself on fire in front of the county courthouse, officials said. Authorities identified the man as Morteza Mehrpou, 48. He was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition with minor burns, officials said.
An initial investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force found that the man was not a terrorist, according to FBI spokesman David Beyer.
The incident happened outside the Jefferson County Hall of Justice in downtown Louisville.
"He has some personal issues unrelated to any terrorist matters," Beyer said.
Mehrpou, who has been in the United States for nearly a year, lived in an apartment provided by Catholic Charities. His friend, Ahmed Alegealy, said he had been without electricity for about two weeks, and could not work because of a medical condition. Roommate Alireza Panahi said Mehrpou told others he was "going to do something" but never said he planned to hurt himself.
Officials at the Archdiocese of Louisville, which oversees Catholic Charities, were not immediately available for comment.
Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Calbert said he could smell gasoline when he went to check the situation. Calbert went back inside for a fire extinguisher and put the flames out within seconds.
Calbert said he had never seen the man.
Donna Nunn, who operates a food stand across the street, said she heard some yelling, turned around and saw the man holding a sign that read "Who's responsible" before he doused himself with gas.
She said the flames appeared to be largely confined to the man's back.