New Jersey man identified as Mall fire victim

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The man who died last week after being found severely burned on the Mall was identified Monday night as a 64-year-old resident of New Jersey, and D.C. police said it was “now apparent that he set himself on fire.”

D.C. police gave the man’s name as John Constantino, and said he was 64, and from Mount Laurel.

An attorney who represents the man’s family released a statement Monday night asserting that Constantino acted not out of political motives but as the result of “a long battle with mental illness.’’

The statement described Constantino as a “loving father and husband.” The nature of his mental illness was not addressed.

Witnesses said last week that Constantino had poured gasoline over his body and then ignited it with a lighter.

He was found on the Mall about 4:30 p.m. near Seventh Street NW and in view of the Capitol. One witness said that before the gasoline was ignited, the man gave a crisp military salute to the Capitol.

Flames engulfed Constantino as passersby rushed to help him. It all took place in about a minute, according to news accounts.

Efforts were made by the passersby to extinguish the flames with their shirts. Emergency personnel found Constantino still conscious.

He reportedly thanked them and the passersby for their efforts.

He was taken to a hospital where he died Friday night, several hours after being found on the Mall. Police said dental records and DNA would be used to try to identify him.

A woman who, according to public records, is a neighbor of Constantino’s in Mount Laurel expressed surprise after learning that he was involved.

She called him easygoing and happy.

“Just a sweet, sweet man,” she said.

According to the neighbor, Constantino had relatives in the Washington area, whom he might have been visiting.

Mount Laurel is a township in southern New Jersey, about 15 miles east of Philadelphia. People who lived near him said he resided on a middle class street of townhouses.

The statement from the family was issued by attorney Jeffrey Cox on Monday night after efforts had been made to contact Constantino’s survivors.

The statement said that “his death was not a political act or statement, but the result of a long battle with mental illness.”

In the statement, family members said they “would like to acknowledge the heroism of the paramedics and bystanders who attempted to save his life.”

His family “is shocked and deeply saddened,” the statement said. Describing the incident as a “personal family matter and not an issue of public concern,” they asked that the media respect their request for privacy.

The incident provoked widespread public attention because of the setting and because of the events that unfolded in Washington last week. Those included the shutdown of the government and the fatal shooting on Capitol Hill of a woman who had crashed her car into a police barricade at the White House and led officers on a chase to the Capitol..

Peter Hermann and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

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