Jared McLemore came running in. He was covered in flames from head to toe.
“It was horrific,” Duckworth told The Washington Post. “It did not seem real. It was overwhelming. It looked like something you’d see in the movies.”
Koehler saw a box filled with articles of clothing and blankets. She grabbed them, including a T-shirt she had in her bag, and threw them at McLemore. She screamed for other patrons to give their clothes to her — anything to help put the fire out. Soon, McLemore was surrounded by patrons; one of whom grabbed a fire extinguisher.
McLemore was screaming, witnesses said. Duckworth heard only high-pitched, incomprehensible sounds, but Koehler heard him say, “Help me.” After what felt like several minutes, the fire was out, and McLemore was lying on the floor near the stage, still conscious, but terribly burned. A nurse who happened to be at the bar that night tried to talk to him.
“Several people acted quickly and put the fire out,” Duckworth said. “And then we ran out into the street with our phones trying to call 911. A police car pulled up, which we stopped and we screamed incomprehensibly about what was going on.”
The incident happened just after midnight on Saturday.
Moments earlier, McLemore had sat on the ground in the parking lot just outside the bar and doused himself with kerosene. A few feet away, he’d positioned his phone upright and begun streaming the entire sequence on Facebook Live. The video, which has since been taken down by Facebook but is still circulating on the Internet, shows him, wearing only shorts and shoes as he pours an unknown liquid all over his body.
Moments later, he bursts into flames and can be seen standing up and running out of the video’s view amid the sound of screaming.
A surveillance video taken from across the street shows a big flame from inside the bar, as people ran out.
Witnesses said that after McLemore ran inside, they saw him try to grab someone — his ex-girlfriend, Alyssa Moore, who was working at the bar as a sound engineer. Koehler said Moore filed restraining orders against him after a long, abusive relationship.
“He wanted her to see a horrific act because she dumped him,” said Koehler, who’s a friend of Moore.
The vivid witness accounts have not been corroborated by Memphis police. The department has not released the name of anyone at the scene, but police have acknowledged that two people were injured after a man set himself on fire on Facebook Live at the bar’s location. Police said a victim with “severe burns to his body” was transported to the hospital in critical condition and another individual was taken to the same hospital with “noncritical” injuries.
The man with the severe burns later died, police said.
Attempts to reach Murphy’s owners were unsuccessful, but a statement on the bar’s Facebook page thanked people for their support and acknowledged that the bar’s “crew is safe.”
In a statement released by Moore’s family, relatives said she wanted to thank the community for its support and was thinking about everyone who witnessed the horrifying act on Facebook Live.
“Jared’s family is also in Alyssa’s heart,” the statement said. “We want to make clear that this happened because of a perfect storm of domestic abuse, the stigma around it, and the visceral reality of mental illness. Alyssa tried to help Jared, and she also had to keep herself safe from him. The police were involved numerous times, and she had an active restraining order.”
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the social media giant does not allow promotion of self-inflicted injury or suicide.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jared McLemore,” the spokesperson said, adding later: “We want people to have a safe experience on Facebook and we work with organizations around the world to provide assistance for people in distress.”
In recent months, Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny from critics who say the social media giant hasn’t done enough to discourage users from streaming acts of violence online.
Last July, Facebook acknowledged that although live video can be a powerful tool to document events, sharing — and allowing — videos on the platform must be done responsibly. What has often surfaced, however, is jarring and sometimes graphic content.
In January, Facebook came under intense criticism for taking two weeks to remove a video that showed a 12-year-old girl live-streaming her suicide, according to media reports.
That same month, a group of four people used Facebook Live to broadcast themselves torturing and taunting a mentally disabled teenager. The calls for Facebook to more closely monitor its videos appeared to peak three months later when Steve W. Stephens uploaded a video of himself fatally shooting a randomly selected, 74-year-old man walking down a Cleveland street. He later confessed to killing Robert Godwin Sr., setting off a multiday nationwide manhunt and reignited a debate about violence in the Internet age.
This month, Facebook announced plans to nearly double the number of workers tasked with monitoring Facebook Live videos. The company says the boost aims to stop violent live streams before they’re able to go viral, curtailing the public attention that some acts of violence quickly command.
Last year, Facebook unveiled tools that allow users to report posts that suggest someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Flagged posts are then reviewed and prioritized by teams “working around the world, 24/7,” the company said.
A GoFundMe page that was set up to raise money for Moore, who, the page claims, acted heroically despite being the intended target of McLemore’s decision to set himself on fire.
“Jared ran inside Murphy’s repeatedly, declaring that ‘she made me do this’ while the remaining patrons watched in horror and used anything they could (jackets, cups of beer, etc.) to try to save him and keep the entire bar from going up in flames,” the page states.
The page has raised more than $30,000 as of Monday afternoon for Moore to receive therapy and buy new equipment damaged by the fire.
Ryan Wiley, the general manager of Ardent Studios, where McLemore worked, released a statement.
“We were saddened to hear about the passing of Jared McLemore and the circumstances surrounding his death,” Wiley said. “He was a talented musician and artist, and our thoughts and prayers are now with his family and friends.”